Shoppers were left shocked when they went to by a £2 bar of chocolate - and discovered it encased in a security plastic box - meaning people would have to ask at the counter. The anti-shoplifting device was spotted at a Co-op store in Codsall over the weekend.

One shopped told BirminghamLive they thought it was “slightly mental” that a slab of Dairy Milk Wholenut was kept in the device, which “must be removed at checkout before leaving store”.

A spokesperson for Co-op said: “Store safety and security is always our key priority, security cases have been used for a number of years and form part of a range of preventative measures to deter retail crime. Retail crime affects all retailers, and shoplifting is all too often a flashpoint for abuse, attacks and anti-social behaviour towards shopworkers when they are working hard to serve their communities – it should not be part of the job.

"Products placed in security cases are typically high value products targeted by criminals. It is not a Co-op policy (nor a UK-wide policy) to place this item in a security case, a decision has been taken by the store locally.”

The Co-op chain this month said it was under siege from shoplifters with thousands walking free after being detained by undercover guards due to lack of police action.

The retailer urged action to stop criminals viewing it as a crime without consequences and said it had suffered the highest levels of shop crime last year with more than 335,000 cases of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour across its food stores.

Co-op said that specially trained undercover guards detained about 3,360 suspected criminals across its stores during 2023. Earlier this year, it found police failed to attend in nearly four out of five cases where someone had been detained in its shops.

Co-op isn’t the only supermarket resorting to extreme measures to combat thieves - a Tesco store in Bristol reportedly checked customers on CCTV before letting them in the door in a “nightclub-style door policy’’.

Another Tesco branch in Theydon Bois, Essex, has slapped security tags on shopping baskets due to a rise in the number of people helping themselves to ‘five-finger discounts’ amid the cost-of-living crisis. Shopper James Beach, 45, was surprised to see the security measure in place during a recent trip to the store

.He said: “I couldn’t believe it when I saw they had stuck tags on shopping baskets - I mean, what are you going to do with one of them? Is there nothing these people won’t nick?”

Security tags attached to the bottom of a shopping basket in Theydon Bois.
Security tags attached to the bottom of a shopping basket in Theydon Bois

James added: “I spoke to one of the staff and she said they’d had loads of thefts so they were tagging the baskets now to try and deter people.” Co-op and Tesco have been approached for comment.

The Government’s plan, launched late last year, included a police commitment to prioritise urgently attending the scene of shoplifting incidents involving violence against a shop worker, where security guards have detained an offender or to secure evidence. Crime and policing minister Chris Philp said he wanted a new “zero-tolerance approach” to tackling shoplifting.

Matt Hood, Co-op’s managing director of food retail, previously said the issue is “critical and is not going away”, adding that repeat prolific offenders and organised criminal gangs were behind the spike in incidents.

He said the Government’s plan was welcomed by the retailer, but that he needs to “see it in action in our stores, so that the desperate calls from frontline colleagues to the police are responded to, and criminals do start to realise there are real consequences to their actions of shoplifting in our shops”.

In February, Co-op said its partnerships with a number of police forces, including in Nottinghamshire, Essex and Sussex, had over the past year removed and managed 110 prolific offenders, with a combined 30 years of custodial sentences.

It has also invested more than £200 million in recent years in staff safety, including bodyworn cameras, secure kiosks, locked doors on high-value products, and dummy or empty packaging to deter bulk theft.