Sandwich chain Pret A Manger has recruited a security guard at a Birmingham store amid safety worries at city branches.
But deteriorating behaviour prompted the company to take proactive measures.
It has already installed coded locks on toilet doors so a receipt is needed to decode them.
Pret declined BirminghamLive’s request to speak to a regional manager or executive about the move.
But it said in a prepared statement: “Our utmost priority is to ensure our customers and team members always feel safe when they’re in our shops.
“We usually employ security in places where there have been reported incidents of anti-social behaviour.
“Concerns were raised in some of our shops in Birmingham, which is why we’ve decided to trial employing a security guard for the time being.
“We will be reviewing this ongoing to see whether this is needed long-term.”
BirminghamLive was given a series of briefing notes by Pret which said guards were not “being employed to address specific issues related to theft or homeless people”.
The company said it would “always seek to work with local authorities and community groups to help address any issues that may arise”.
Asked whether West Midlands Police was doing enough, the chain said: ‘West Midlands Police has always been incredibly helpful to Pret when investigating any incidents that arise’.
Asked whether a senior officer would be able to discuss this aspect of city centre life, a West Midlands Police spokesman said it was a matter for Pret and they could not comment.
Police action in relation to a specific incident would depend on the control centre and whether an alleged offender was still at the scene.
BirminghamLive understands a security guard is also often present at Greggs shop next to McDonald’s on The Ramp between New Street and Grand Central.
Pret also has a store at Selfridges in the Bullring and its cafe above New Street Railway station is a focal point of Grand Central’s atrium.
It has high street shops on New Street, Cherry Street, Newhall Street and Colmore Row and is also at Birmingham Airport.
The Colmore Row branch of Pret a Manger is opposite Snow Hill railway station and yards from Birmingham Cathedral, the Great Western Arcade and the almost fully restored Grand Hotel.
It is also close to dozens of flagship financial institutions, from branches of banks including Barclays and Halifax, to insurance giants Direct Line and the Wesleyan.
Pret had a smaller shop on Colmore Row 20 years ago but M&S bought the site and enlarged it to create a Foodhall there.
The site became a Pret again five years ago on March 21, 2014 and the shop is one of the city’s busiest, opening six days per week from Monday to Saturday.
The Pret Foundation supports more than 60 charities across the UK in the communities local to its shops.
This year, as well as donating money, it has provided everything from showers and sleeping bags to food shopping and even chets.
Any theft from its shops is almost a literal reflection of lines in the Lord’s Prayer which says: ‘Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses’.
Paul Street is a former West Midlands Police officer recently taken on by Colmore Business Improvement District (BID), which oversees improvements and services for Birmingham’s business quarter.
He said: “Business crime has been increasing nationally over the last few years and unfortunately, Birmingham has been no exception to this trend.
“Colmore BID has been working with partners to try to mitigate the impact of this on the district and the wider city centre.
“One of our key pledges to businesses has been to increase the support we provide through our security team, and we are currently recruiting additional staff to both expand the team and increase their hours of operation.
“We are also linked into the City Safe radio scheme to ensure we work collaboratively across the city when tackling shop lifting and other forms of anti-social behaviour.
“More broadly we are working on strategic initiatives that we hope will lead to a reduction in anti-social behaviour such as that experienced by Pret, that will continue to support our growing hospitality scene and that will help to ensure that Colmore Business District continues to be a safe place to be, day and night.”
Birmingham City Council is three weeks into a six-week consultation period about a proposed city-wide Public Space Protection Order. To have your say, visit the Birmingham Be Heard website survey link here
Every Pret has a notice on its window saying ‘Good jobs for good people. People at Pret work hard, have fun, wear jeans, learn a lot and really grow. Join the Pret family and be more’.
Its shops are fitted with CCTV cameras in various strategic positions.
One European worker who works for Pret across the city told BirminghamLive: “We’ve even seen men in suits putting salad boxes inside their jackets.
“Why would you risk your whole career for that?
“The company does not train us to deal effectively with people coming in with the intention to steal sandwiches and I don’t think we have enough support from the police.
“When we spot people trying to steal we challenge them, but they know we can’t detain them.
“There are anti-social people and there are people clearly on drugs.
“Drug addicts will come in knowing nobody will try to stop them – we’ve even had them vomiting.
“They keep coming back because that’s a consequence of them knowing nothing will happen, that we can’t touch them.
“Sometimes they will even come back within five minutes to try again because they have nothing to lose.
“Years ago drug users took more natural products, now the chemicals in them are making them more likely to be aggressive and they will swear at you even if you ask them nicely to leave.
“If you give them money, it is not going to change anything – why fill a bucket with a hole? Fix the hole!
“The police should have more powers and rights because the penalties are too low.
“When we’ve tried to do something we’ve even had members of the public saying to us: ‘Why are you causing a drama… let him go’.
“Birmingham is a great city but it’s dirty and needs cleaning up.
“In the UK, the only things that happen are because you (as a society) let them happen.
“Why can’t PCSOs carry handcuffs? But very soon I think we are going to have to let them.”
Source – Birmingham Mail