Published: 06:00, 01 July 2019
| Updated: 07:55, 01 July 2019
Anti-social behaviour fears sparked by thugs “stealing to order” have led to calls for Co-op to hire security guards.
Shoppers feel “unsafe” after bottles of alcohol were thrown at an IT worker, who was then robbed outside the Oxford Street branch in Whitstable when he confronted two youths over shoplifting.
The 48-year-old, called David, says they shouted expletives and even threatened to stab him before fleeing with his phone.
He had tried to intervene when - during a quick trip to the shop at about 9pm on Saturday, June 15, for a bottle of wine - he saw two teenagers walking out with several crates of beer.
“It’s just not something I could stand by and watch happen,” he says.
“I just said, ‘drop that right now’, expecting them to drop it and run.
"As I stepped outside they started shouting expletives directly at me. Then all of a sudden there was about 10 of them.
“They started throwing bottles from close range. I don’t know how they missed me, and then one threatened to stab me.
“I couldn’t say for certain how many there were, because I was traumatised. I was just trying to keep calm, because I thought they might have a knife.”
After one of the youths spat in David’s face, he chased them around a corner, only to find an even larger group of about 20 gathered.
Luckily, four onlookers jumped out of a passing car to help him.
“They started throwing bottles from close range. I don’t know how they missed me, and then one threatened to stab me..." - David
David added: “They just have no regard for anyone around them. I work hard, and seeing them walk out with what must have been £100 worth of alcohol, I wasn’t having any of it.
“They’re stealing to order. It’s constant. I have spoken to Staff there, and they are at their wits’ end because they can’t do anything, and then they’re responsible for lost stock.
“I just don’t want that sort of behaviour going on. I love Whitstable and I don’t want to see it turning into a suburb of London, but it feels like it’s going that way.”
A petition has been started by mum-of-two Louise Houston, 45, who says staff are not working in a “safe environment” and Co-op should better protect them.
“It’s not fair to say the Co-op is responsible for all those problems,” she said.
She said: “If members of the public are stepping in and putting themselves in danger, it’s just not a good situation. There is no police presence really, and there’s been such a rise in antisocial behaviour. There’s no deterrent or consequences and what happened to David is not on.”
Co-op spokesman Bryan Bell said: “Co-op takes retail crime very seriously and the safety of our colleagues and customers is of paramount importance. We are implementing a number of measures to deter both criminal activity and aid convictions.”