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Rising tide of violence against Shop Workers sparks urgent calls for government action

In a concerning trend reflecting the growing vulnerability of retail staff, incidents of violence against shop workers have surged by a staggering 50% in just one… View Article


Rising tide of violence against Shop Workers sparks urgent calls for government action

In a concerning trend reflecting the growing vulnerability of retail staff, incidents of violence against shop workers have surged by a staggering 50% in just one year.

New figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) paint a stark picture of the challenges faced by those on the frontline of the retail industry.

According to the BRC’s latest data, daily incidents targeting shop workers skyrocketed to 1,300 in 2023, marking a significant escalation from the previous year. These incidents encompass a range of offenses, including sexual harassment, racial abuse, physical assault, and menacing threats, echoing the distressing rates witnessed during the height of the pandemic.

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, expressed grave concern over the alarming rise in violence against retail workers. “Despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers are climbing,” Dickinson stated. “With over 1,300 incidents every day, government can no longer ignore the plight of ordinary, hardworking retail colleagues. This is a crisis that demands action now.”

The financial toll of these crimes is also substantial, with businesses shelling out £1.2 billion on security measures such as CCTV, body cameras, and increased personnel—a marked increase from the previous year’s expenditure of £722 million. Moreover, the cost of theft to retail establishments has doubled, soaring from £953 million to a staggering £1.8 billion, pushing the total cost of crime for retailers to a staggering £3.3 billion.

Retailers are now urging the government to implement stricter measures to tackle this pervasive issue. Among their demands is the establishment of assaulting or abusing a retail worker as a specific criminal offense, coupled with tougher penalties for perpetrators. Additionally, they call for greater prioritisation of retail crime by law enforcement agencies across the UK.

Despite these pleas for action, recent police data has raised concerns about the effectiveness of law enforcement responses to retail crimes. Shockingly, one major retailer reported that police failed to respond to 73% of serious retail crimes reported in October, underscoring the urgency for improved collaboration and enforcement strategies.

Responding to these alarming statistics, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne emphasised the need for concerted efforts to address the scourge of retail crime. “The levels of retail crime described in this report reveal an unprecedented level of selfish lawlessness,” Bourne remarked. “Every day, retail staff are facing the consequences of shoplifters’ brazen behavior.”

You can access the BRC Crime survey here.

Meanwhile, Ros Morgan, Chief Executive at the Heart of London Business Alliance (HOLBA), welcomed the announcement of £151 million in additional funding for the Metropolitan Police. Recognising the pervasive threat of crime, particularly theft, to businesses and visitors in London’s bustling heart, Morgan stressed the importance of bolstering police presence to deter criminal activities and foster a safer environment for all.

“We have long called for a greater police presence to deter criminal activities and instil a sense of security. HOLBA funds private security to ensure there is a 24/7 uniformed presence in our area and we urge the Mayor to ensure some of this new funding is used to increase police patrols in the West End. Effective collaboration between businesses, law enforcement and BIDs is the best way to combat evolving criminal trends effectively and make the area safer area for all.”

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, underscored the need for further action to address the issue of abuse against frontline workers. “We were part of a successful campaign to make abuse of frontline workers an aggravated offense, but these numbers suggest there is still much more to be done,” Causon stated. “That’s why we think such incidents should be recorded distinctly in crime figures. We need more confidence from staff and organisations to report issues to the police and that issues of staff abuse are taken really seriously. Abuse is leading to low staff morale, staff absences, and it’s hurting not just the individual, but the economy too.”

In light of these developments, it is evident that urgent and concerted action is needed to address the escalating violence against shop workers and safeguard the well-being of those who serve on the frontlines of the retail sector.

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