Serious retail crime in supermarkets up 246% - a new technology being trialled in North Island stores to keep teams and customers safe
Wednesday, 23 November 2022
- Serious incidents, theft, burglary, robbery, assault and other aggressive, violent and threatening behaviour in Foodstuffs North Island stores this year are up 31% on 2021.
- Serious incidents in stores are up 246% since 2020.
- Of 9,700 offenders this year, nearly 2,500 are likely to be repeat offenders.
- In an attempt to proactively reduce serious incidents in stores and meet our safety responsibilities to customers and teams, Foodstuffs North Island is going to trial facial recognition technology
- A trial of facial recognition technology has not started and facial recognition technology is not being used by Foodstuffs. The co-op is working closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and discussing specifics of how the trial could work with their support
Following a significant increase in the rates of theft, burglary, robbery, assault and other aggressive, violent and threatening behaviour across its stores, Foodstuffs North Island is undertaking a trial of facial recognition technology at some stores to help keep its teams and customers safe.
Foodstuffs North Island is a cooperative of 320+ local grocers who individually own and operate New World, PAK’nSAVE, Gilmours and Four Square stores in communities around the North Island, employing over 24,000 people.
As the cooperative’s stores prepare for the busiest trading period of the year over Christmas, Foodstuffs North Island CEO, Chris Quin says, “Supermarkets are on the frontline of the rising trend of retail crime with our teams dealing with daily incidents of assault, aggression and theft. This is the concerning reality for our teams as the number of incidents in grocery stores has risen significantly since early 2020 to record levels this year. Serious incidents in our stores are up 31 per cent on last year, and an unprecedented 246% per cent since the start of pandemic.”
In an attempt to proactively reduce serious incidents in stores, Foodstuffs North Island is undertaking a trial of facial recognition technology in approximately 30 stores across North Island.
“Our store teams have a toolbox of measures to keep people safe and these will absolutely stay in place, but we have to do more. Facial recognition technology is one of the only tools we’ve identified that could help us to proactively target and reduce theft, burglary, robbery, assault, and other aggressive, violent or threatening behaviour by repeat offenders. Facial recognition technology will only be used in our stores for this specific and limited purpose.
“Our data shows repeat offenders are responsible for a high proportion of serious offending in our stores with nearly 2,500 out of around 9,700 offenders likely to be repeat offenders this year. Our store owners will work closely with Police to apprehend offenders and issue trespass orders, but we need to keep exploring the best ways to protect our teams and customers, particularly from repeat offenders.
“We’re a large retailer with more than 3.5 million people entering one of our supermarkets in North Island every week. Our store teams do an amazing job, their focus is on keeping food on shelf and looking after our customers – we don’t want them at risk trying to manage unsafe situations where people who have been trespassed or are known accomplices of offenders continue to re-enter their stores.
“This is where facial recognition technology could help. It may be able to sit alongside all our other security and safety initiatives, helping to proactively identify anyone who should not be in the store, or who is a known accomplice of an offender,” says Quin.
The privacy of our customers is a major priority and Foodstuffs North Island has been directly consulting with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner on the appropriate use of the tech and our trial. In addition, we have participated in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s consultation on the regulation of biometrics, including facial recognition in NZ. Recognising this is a dynamic and changing environment, we will continue to comply with all relevant laws.
Facial recognition technology will only be used in our stores for the specific and limited purpose of proactively targeting and reducing theft, burglary, robbery, assault, and other aggressive, violent, or threatening behaviour by repeat offenders. Any store using, or trialling, facial recognition technology will be signposted at the entrance of the store.
“We have a responsibility to protect the safety and security of our teams and our customers, while also protecting our customers’ privacy. We have to get that balance right with the trial of this new technology. To ensure we are, we’ve done a rigorous privacy impact assessment and we continue to engage with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
“A small number of our supermarkets already have this technology, and their use of the technology will be reviewed in connection with the trial. Stores using facial recognition technology have signs stating this and it’s also addressed in our brand’s privacy policies.
“Once we have the results of the trial, we can make a decision about whether we use this technology on an ongoing basis for security and, if so, how we do that in a way that keeps everyone safe,” finishes Quin.