The Co-op has equipped its security with a new forensic spray amid growing levels of violence against shop workers.
Security guards in around 400 stores now carry “SmartTag”, a canister that can be fired to tag offenders with a liquid containing a forensic code.
Police can then use the code to identify the criminal, though the grocer hopes that the threat of being tagged will stop most incidents.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our colleagues who work tirelessly to serve communities,” Co-op security head Andrew Needham said.
“No one should have to face violence just for doing their job, and we are doing everything we can to protect them.”
He also called on the government to “introduce greater protection for shop workers with stiffer penalties and sentencing.”
The Co-op said that all security guards who use SmartTag will have been trained to use it.
The spray was trialled in South Yorkshire, with 100 canisters handed out to security guards across the county.
“We received great feedback from security staff who said they had defused situations by warning those involved that they would be forensically marked,” detective superintendent Jake Berry, who launched the scheme, said.
In a further bid to clampdown on violence against staff, the Co-op will double the number of its stores where employees wear body cameras.
The news comes after retail trade union Usdaw gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee earlier this month on the need for legislation to protect shop workers.
The union’s 2020 survey showed that six in 10 staff had been threatened and one in 10 had been assaulted.