The British Retail Consortium's annual crime survey always makes for grim reading. And, as always, it's the section on violence against shop staff that really stands out ­ but for all the wrong reasons.
Incidents of violence and abuse remain disturbingly high, particularly in the small store sector. It is these retailers who find themselves on the front line in the battle against shop crime. They are the ones who are most at risk from violent attacks. And they are the ones who deserve to see this issue being treated seriously by the government. Recycling old statements as news, as home secretary David Blunkett effectively did this week, is better than nothing, I suppose. But not much better. Retailers, and the people who work for them, are quite right to demand more from Blunkett & Co than some paltry sum of money for investment in security hardware.
Many retailers ­ particularly those in the small store sector ­ have lost faith in the authorities. Is it any wonder? Too often the police arrive late when help is sought. Too often those responsible for crime are not caught. And even when they are apprehended, they are often not prosecuted, leaving them free to re-offend (usually in the same store).
One of the key messages from the BRC is that the government and police need to fundamentally rethink the way they view the whole issue of retail crime. They should stop seeing it as a problem for the industry to tackle and instead place it much higher up their list of priorities.
Other organisations ­ notably the Association of Convenience Stores ­ put considerable effort into lobbying government on this issue. Our sister magazine Convenience Store has been running its Zero Tolerance campaign to highlight the scale of the problem ­ particularly how it affects the victims of violent crime. And shopworkers' union Usdaw is raising awareness in Whitehall through its Freedom From Fear campaign.
Yet, despite everything, ministers stubbornly ignore calls for the government to take more positive action on retail crime. Isn't it about time they started to listen?