Tesco is to offer every store worker access to a body camera, after boss Ken Murphy called for an end to the rising tide of violence against staff.
Murphy spoke about what he labelled the “heartbreaking” impact on staff of attacks which had spiralled since the pandemic, and called for a change in the law to make abuse or violence towards retail workers an offence across the UK.
The Tesco boss said the supermarket was rolling out the body worn cameras “for colleagues that need them” in a bid to deter offenders, as part of an investment of nearly £50m by Tesco in security measures.
Murphy highlighted the latest BRC figures showing violence or abuse against staff had almost doubled from 450 incidents per day in 2019-20 to more than 850 last year.
After a campaign by retailers and Usdaw, the government last year made attacking shopworkers an aggravating factor in convictions, but he urged ministers to go further and follow the Scottish government in making abuse or violence towards retail workers an offence.
“I want those who break the law in our stores brought to book,” Murphy wrote in an article for the Mail on Sunday.
“As retailers, we work hard to make sure our stores are warm, welcoming and safe – not just for customers, but for the millions of people who stock the shelves, walk the floor and serve the tills. Like everyone, they deserve to be safe at work.
“But over the last couple of years, these unsung heroes are being made to feel less safe by the actions of some people: customers who will be verbally and physically abusive, or who will threaten and attack them when challenged.
“These people are small in number but have a disproportionate impact. And the number of these incidents is increasing.”
As well as making shop crime easier to prosecute, Murphy also called for the police to be responsible for better communication with retailers on known criminals.
“When someone is picked up for committing a crime in a store, the business should have a right to know how the case is proceeding – which does not happen at the moment,” he said.
“We need better links between police forces and businesses to prevent crime in the first place. Gangs take advantage of the fact we do not share enough information. We’ll only be able to stop these thugs if we work together.
”Money spent on making sure people are safe at work is always well spent, but it should not have to be like this,” said Murphy.
“Crime is a scourge on society, and an insult to shoppers and retail workers. It is time we put an end to it.”