‘Ex-Gurkha’ deployed at London’s flagship Greggs as shoplifters brazenly target bakery chain

2 May 2024, 10:34 | Updated: 2 May 2024, 12:04

A former serviceman was patrolling the flagship London Greggs shop this morning
A former serviceman was patrolling the flagship London Greggs shop this morning. Picture: LBC

By Emma Soteriou

Greggs has been forced to deploy a former serviceman at its flagship central London branch as shoplifters target the chain in a spate of thefts.

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The security guard on duty at the Leicester Square Greggs this morning is an ex-serviceman believed to have served in the fearsome Gurkha regiment.

Greggs, which last year overtook Subway to become the UK’s biggest fast food chain, has been forced to take tough measures as part of efforts to thwart brazen shoplifters trying to get their hands on the popular baked goods.

LBC understands the former soldier on duty today served in the Gurkha regiment, which is world-renowned for the bravery of its soldiers and has the motto "It is better to die than to live like a coward."

He was standing in front of the drinks cabinet in the central London branch this morning dressed in a black suit and wearing a lanyard.

Other branches have also begun putting food behind counters to deter shoplifters.

Social media videos show shoplifters brazenly walking in and helping themselves to armfuls of goods from other Greggs branches.

A sign at a branch in Brixton reads: "Hello! We do have sandwiches. Please just ask a member of staff behind the counter.

"Due to thieves targeting the shop, we aren't able to display sandwiches."

The former soldier on duty in Greggs this morning
The former soldier on duty in Greggs this morning. Picture: LBC

Brad, from Bexley, told LBC outside the flagship store this morning: "It is a shame but I think it’s just the reality of the economy as the way it is at the minute.

"The shops have got to protect themselves - if they allow that kind of thing to keep going then the cost will be passed on to the paying customers. It’s not great to see but it’s the reality we’re in now."

He said it is easy to pass the blame to those who are stealing goods but that it is likely to be "done out of desperation more than anything else".

Tom said: "That’s just the way things are now really. It’s a shame but there’s such a disregard to the law and the powerlessness of the law at the moment in this country and it’s what people are being driven to."

He said he thought the cost of living crisis was one factor for the increase in shoplifting but added: “I think there’s a breakdown in society in general.”

Meanwhile, Sarah told LBC: "It does seem a bit extreme to have to have a security guard in Greggs but if that’s what needs to be done then they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do.

"I have seen shoplifting there myself so it seems to be something that’s happening quite often."

Read more: Brazen thieves fill duffle bags with Boots cosmetics and walk out with armfuls of Greggs food as shoplifting soars

Read more: Greggs staff forced into wearing body cameras after surge in sausage roll thefts and attacks on workers

In recent months, one LBC staff member who was shopping in the branch witnessed a man push through the queue, grab armfuls of chicken tenders from the hot cabinet and run out unchallenged.

It comes after it was revealed that staff have begun wearing body cameras due to an increase in sausage roll thefts, amid concerns over workers being attacked in the process.

Some of the UK's busiest Greggs, including at London Bridge station, have begun phasing in changes to deter shoplifters.

Signs places outside the shop read: "Keeping Everyone Safe.

"To ensure the safety of our customers and colleagues, we're trialling body-worn cameras in this shop. Audio and video will be recorded."

Some branches have been forced to move food behind the counter.
Some branches have been forced to move food behind the counter. Picture: Freddie Hall/LBC

Shoplifting has increased a lot in recent years, with more than 402,000 offences recorded in the year to September 2023.

Footage previously emerged of two men filling duffle bags with products from Boots on Chingford High Street, east London.

Another video showed a man brazenly filling his arms with food and drink from a Greggs store in Archway.

Graham Wynn, Assistant Director of Regulatory Affairs at the BRC, said: "Shoplifting poses a huge issue to businesses and communities across the country, and inadequate police action has given criminals a free rein to steal goods.

"Our latest crime survey showed losses to theft doubled in the last year to £1.8bn, and retailers had to spend a further £1.2bn on anti-crime measures.

"Not only has the number of thefts increased, but thieves are becoming bolder, more aggressive, and more frequently armed with weapons.

"We call on the police and the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioners to get tough on retail crime and ensure tackling this issue is a high priority in future local policing plans."

Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of The Retail Trust, the wellbeing charity for retail workers told LBC: “Thousands of shop workers are contacting us to say they now fear for their safety due to this level of crime and the abuse that often accompanies it, and this is simply unacceptable.

“One person told us they were hit around the head by a shoplifter with a metal basket, another was knocked out cold by an angry customer, and this is on top of the vile insults and threats handed out on an all-too-regular basis.

“We’d encourage anyone encountering this to report it to their manager so they can make sure the right support and protection is in place, and to get in touch with the Retail Trust if they need any help dealing with their experiences.”

Several chains have turned to similar security measures as a result.

In November 2023, Lidl became the first supermarket to give its staff body cameras across all UK stores in a bid to tackle the surge of shoplifting cases.

Meanwhile, Tesco staff have been offered body cameras after physical assaults rose by a third in the last 12 months up to September 2023.

Greggs has been approached for comment.

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