Skip to main content
Police and retailers launch safer spaces scheme for anyone feeling vulnerable

Police and retailers launch safer spaces scheme for anyone feeling vulnerable

The police led National Business Crime Centre (NBCC), has teamed up with leading supermarkets and retailers, including Tesco, to launch a scheme to make retail outlets a safe space for people in need of help.

The Safer Spaces scheme, also known as Operation PORTUM, is an overarching scheme that businesses can sign up to and support to create safer spaces in retail outlets for employees, customers and people in the community that feel vulnerable.

The NBCC, working in partnership with a number of national retailers including Tesco, has developed guidance and a step-by-step process to assist businesses in the planning, creating and implementation of a safe spaces scheme within their business.

Supt Patrick Holdaway, NBCC lead said: “Due to the national focus around the safety of women and girls it was identified that no formal safe spaces scheme existed primarily within the retail sector, however, many retailers were keen to provide this support but were unsure of what they needed to do.

“We have looked at the different safe space schemes in existence, consulted with various functions and developed some guidance.  Our approach is to empower retailers to introduce their own scheme through informed support and training, rather than try to develop a once size fits all approach.  The Operation Portum branding is something for retailers to use and develop their own safe spaces schemes around.”

The scheme, which is being launched as part of the national Safer Business Action Week SaBA Week running from 16-22 October, already has support from the likes of John Lewis Partnership, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks and Spencer, Next and Boots meaning that there are in excess of 10,000 retail units offering a safe space. 

Tesco Shrink and Security Director Rachel Bennett said: “The safety of our customers and colleagues is a key priority for Tesco, and that is why offering safe spaces in our stores to people who feel vulnerable is so important to us. The more safe spaces that people can access the better, and we hope the guidance we have helped the NBCC develop will encourage other retailers to get involved with this initiative, and to create safe spaces of their own.”

As well as the guidance, the NBCC has also worked with Tesco to develop a short awareness video for retailers:

The video looks at specific scenario where a young woman exits a train station and then feels she is being followed by someone. She heads directly to a Tesco supermarket and speaks to a member of the security team who takes her to a safe space within the store where she can contact her Mum and Dad to come and pick her up.

Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for violence against women and girls added: “It is vital to ensure that anyone who needs it is supported in finding a safe space, particularly when they are away from home. This new initiative will give people an option should they need to quickly find somewhere safe, and it’s heartening to see so many big and small retailers wanting to take part. The National Business Crime Centre’s work in encouraging such an important discussion and finding solutions is a great example of working collaboratively to protect any individual who requires a safe space.”

The NBCC hope to extend the initiative to other sectors such as hotels and banking. More information can be found on the Safe Spaces area of the website: