Retail leaders have urged the police to prioritise shop crime, amid soaring costs to the sector.
A letter signed by more than 100 leading retail bosses to Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales calls on them to commit to making retail crime a bigger factor in their policing strategies, warning that shoppers ultimately face the cost in higher prices.
The letter cites rising levels of violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour across retail operations, and the emotional impact it can have on victims and their colleagues.
The rise in retail crime “is partly linked to tackling shoplifting, which pushes up the cost of operating and results in higher prices for everyone,” says the letter.
Earlier this year the UK government introduced an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which created tougher sentencing for assaults committed against those “providing a public service or performing a public duty”.
However, the letter says retailers were forced to spend £715 million on crime prevention in 2020/21, according to the latest Crime Survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – from hiring in-store security teams, training teams on de-escalation, and investing in CCTV and body-worn cameras for staff – but say local police support is vital to protecting retail workers.
During the pandemic, retail workers were subjected to a huge rise in violence and abuse, with incidents almost tripling from 455 per day in 2019/20 to 1,300 in 2020/21, the BRC survey reported.
The call to police chiefs includes demands for them to work with local businesses to investigate ways to make reporting simpler, calls to encourage local forces to investigate all reports of violence and abuse against retail workers and monitor how the new sentencing guidelines are being implemented.
“A new law has increased the penalties for assaulting a retail worker, but this will only have an impact if police successfully investigate and prosecute these incidents. This is why we are calling on Police and Crime Commissioners to make retail crime a priority across the board,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.
“Our retail colleagues were among the ‘hidden heroes’ of the pandemic – working tirelessly to keep the nation fed, clothed and with access to the goods we wanted. But every incident against a retail worker is one too many. Retailers are going above and beyond to keep their colleagues and customers safe, hiring in-store security teams, training staff on de-escalation, and investing in CCTV and body-worn cameras.”