FEARS over staff safety at a city convenience store have sparked a supermarket to introduce controversial neck-worn devices.

Sainsbury’s says it has given staff at its Bedford Place Local store the devices as part of a review of its safety measures at the city centre shop.

It comes after Southampton business chiefs called for a crime crackdown in the city centre over fears that the area has become “lawless”.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We’ve recently introduced personal safety devices in our Bedford Place store.

“The safety of our customers and colleagues is extremely important to us and we regularly review the security measures in our stores.”

The devices look like a cassette player and can be switched on or off by staff.

Similar devices have been used by Sainsbury’s since as far back as 2014.

Sainsbury’s insist such systems are entirely legal, above board and necessary to protect staff. But they have in the past been described as “intrusive” by civil liberties groups.

Lorraine Barter, a long term resident of the nearby Polygon area, described the need for the devices as “shocking”.

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She said: “It is shocking that this is necessary in what was once the most up market and desirable area of the city.”

The decision to introduce the cameras comes as businesses in Southampton city centre have raised concerns over staff safety.

Earlier this month, bosses at GO! Southampton Business Improvement District (BID) wrote to Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Michael Lane raising concerns about a sharp rise in “uncontrolled” aggressive begging, staff intimidation and public drug use in the city centre.

One BID member described the city centre as “lawless”.

Giles Semper, executive director of GO! Southampton, said: “We have been aware of the severe issues faced by the manager and staff at Sainsbury’s on Bedford Place for some time and have tried to support them.

“It is no surprise that they have now had to resort to such extreme measures.

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"However, until there are enough police on the street in the city centre, crime will continue to rise.”

A Hampshire Police spokesperson said the force understood the frustration of business owners but serious crime was a priority.

The spokesperson added: “Body-worn cameras capture footage of incidents and provide us with helpful evidence when investigating crimes, much like CCTV.”

A spokesperson for police and crime commissioner Michael Lane said he took the concerns “very seriously”.