Central England Co-op is warning would-be criminals that it is “not worth the risk” targeting its stores after boosting security measures to keep colleagues and customers safe during the coronavirus lockdown.

The retailer, which includes 22 petrol filling stations among its 260-strong estate, revealed it was working closely with police forces across 16 counties to let it be known that any type of crime from burglaries to violence and aggression towards staff would not be tolerated.

Extra measures being put in place include additional security guards to ensure shoppers are safe and adhere to social distancing.

Craig Goldie, loss prevention manager, said: “During these uncertain times we all having to adapt but one thing that remains constant for us here at Central England Co-op is our zero tolerance towards all types of crime.

“We want to send a clear message out to anyone who might consider targeting our stores at this time – it is not worth the risk and no crime will be tolerated.

“We are working hard to ensure our colleagues and customers are safe so that we can continue to provide vital services and support to our communities.

“As well as working closely with local police forces, we have also put in place extra security guards to help keep colleagues and customers safe and also make sure that people are respecting social distancing rules.

“We also want to reiterate our plea to treat our colleagues with care, compassion and respect as they work around the clock for our communities. We want people to think long and hard about the person wearing our uniform – they will be someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, grandma or grandfather.

“We want people to ask themselves whether they would like their relatives to be confronted by someone in a violent or aggressive way, especially at this uncertain time. The answer is no and therefore why should our colleagues or anyone who works in retail have to even consider facing up to this kind of behaviour.”

The retailer has employed an extra 150 security guards in stores and its distribution network, giving almost 2,000 extra hours of support to keep people safe and ensure security measures are adhered to.

Several other new measures in stores to stop crimes taking place include a centrally monitored CCTV system which allows colleagues to call for assistance at the touch of a button.

This sits alongside a range of other measures such as product GPS trackers, additional ATM anchors, gas suppression systems and stringent cash controls in place to limit the amount of money at each store.

Stores also have external motion sensors which can be activated outside trading hours. When triggered they will switch on CCTV cameras to record any out-of-hours activity and contact police if needed.