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A group of men threatened to attack colleagues with knives at a Central England Co-op store in Birmingham on Wednesday night.

The incident occurred after a gang of girls were asked to leave the Great Barr store, who then returned with the group of men.

The colleagues were not injured, and the retailer is now supporting the police investigation.

“Everyone at Central England Co-op has been shocked and appalled at this unacceptable incident in Birmingham,” said loss prevention manager Craig Goldie.

“Luckily, the colleagues were not injured and we are offering full support to them and the entire team and working closely with the local police force to bring the criminals responsible to justice.

“We strongly condemn any form of abuse or violence towards our colleagues who are just doing their job.

“These types of incidents reinforce our ongoing campaign calling for better protection for shopworkers and highlights our zero-tolerance policy on all types of crime aimed at our colleagues and customers.

“Once again, we are sending a clear message out to anyone who might consider targeting our colleagues and stores – it is not worth the risk and no crime will be tolerated.”

Recently, the retailer rolled out a raft of new security measures in stores, including a service that allows staff to call for assistance at the touch of a button, as well as putting tracking devices in more products to deter thieves.

Central England Co-op has also been working with other major retailers, unions, industry bodies, police and crime commissioners and more than 200 MPs to lobby the government on shopworker abuse through the introduction of tougher penalties.

The crime crackdown comes off the back of new research that revealed that, in the past 12 months, incidents of verbal abuse jumped by 167%, antisocial behaviour by 39%, assaults by 35% and threats by 16%, compared with 2019.

The retailer has recorded a total of 312 crimes related directly to coronavirus.

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