Shop owners and staff in Northamptonshire have received advice on how to arrest shoplifters.

The guidance said personal safety comes first, but added that shop workers can use “reasonable force” to perform a citizen’s arrest on those caught shoplifting. This advice contradicts the material given by other local police forces, that tells non-security trained staff not to physically confront thieves.

Co-op policy director Paul Gerrard hit back: “Police are stretched but asking shop workers to physically detain offenders, from our experience, risks escalating it into something more serious and violent. It’s not the answer to crime affecting community shops and their workers.”

ACS CEO James Lowman agreed. “In far too many cases, challenging thieves leads to abuse and violence,” he said. 

“The police need to respond to theft rather than putting shop owners and staff at further risk when making citizen’s arrests.”

In 2015 Co-op shop assistant Adrian Weekes (pictured) apprehended a repeat shoplifter by sitting on him until the police arrived. He was initially suspended from work before being reinstated following a local petition.

In 2012 an innocent customer in a convenience store in Scotland was detained by store staff after being mis-identified as a dangerous wanted criminal. The customer later commented: "It was so embarrassing, people thinking I was a dangerous criminal. I was just an innocent person buying a can of beer.”

Northamptonshire Police said it is "committed to the prevention and detection of crime including shoplifting".

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