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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Police 'tea stop' to cut crime
Policeman with cup of tea
Officers will be provided with tea at Co-op stores
Police on the beat are being encouraged to have a cup of tea while on patrol in an attempt to stop violent attacks on shop staff.

The trial project is being run by the Co-op and South Wales Police across 40 stores.

If is proves successful, the initiative could be extended across the UK

The move comes after new figures showed staff faced thousands of violent or threatening incidents.

Figures from the Co-op, released on Tuesday, showed 763 physical assaults on staff in the year between January 2003 and January 2004.

There was also a rise in verbal abuse of shop staff, with 3,028 incidents reported last year in the Co-op's 2,500 food stores across the UK.

We've had incidents involving knives and verbal abuse which can be very frightening for the staff
Justin Barrow, Co-op store manager

It is hoped that if officers are seen in stores mingling with customers, it will act as a deterrent to criminals.

If the south Wales police tea stop pilot scheme is a success, it may be extended to other areas.

South Wales Police said the increased visibility of police in convenience stores could help reassure the public.

The force added that the shop visits would also help police gather intelligence on crime from customers.

'Pass on information'

PC Terry Williams, a community officer in Ynysybwl, near Pontypridd, said: "It's nice to pop into the shop now and again and while I'm here I'm forging links with the community.

"If I was up in my station, they wouldn't pop in, but if they see me in the shop, they pass on information which can be used by us."

PC Williams added that it was not the offer of free tea that prompted him to call in at the shop.

Police officers on beat
Officers say the tea scheme will help community policing

"During my beat in Ynysybwl, I call into the shops anyway," he explained.

"I might be in here for 10 or 15 minutes talking to the staff, the manager and also the people who shop here.

"It is a reassurance me being here, and any intelligence gathered in the shop can be acted on at a later date."

'Physically ill'

One woman, who works at a Co-op near Pontypridd, south Wales and wanted to remain anonymous, recalled the day she was the victim of a violent attack.

She added: "A man threatened both me and another supervisor with a knife.

"When I left the store, my colleague was physically ill. It left me upset for a couple of days."

Justin Barrow, store manager of the store said his staff, who had faced attack at the hands of customers, would be reassured by a police presence.

"There's a need in the communities to have these kind of schemes and it will give the staff a lot of reassurance," he said.

"We've had incidents involving knives and verbal abuse which can be very frightening for the staff.

"The staff live in the area and its problem when they finish work and they have to go out into the community.

"My aim is staff assurance and they know someone from the police force is going to come in and give them confidence.

"We'll be keeping the kettle on."

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