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Leading UK retailers urge police to “make retail crime a priority”

Tom Bottomley
11 August 2022

Over 100 leading UK retailers have written a joint letter to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales to make violence and abuse against retail workers a priority, despite themselves making a “huge investment” in crime prevention.

The retailers have expressed their increasing concerns about the rising levels of violence and anti-social behaviour across their operations, and the emotional impact it can have on victims.

The rise in retail crime, the letter notes, “is partly linked to tackling shoplifting which pushes up the cost of operating and results in higher prices for everyone”.

UK retailers spent £715m on crime prevention in 2020/21, according to the latest Crime Survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The large sums have been spent on hired in-store security teams, training of retail teams on de-escalation and investment in CCTV and body worn cameras for staff, but retailers say police support “is vital” to protect 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, according to the new BRC survey.

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said: “I am proud of the incredible work done by our retail colleagues. They 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.”

Earlier this year, after an extensive campaign by the BRC and others, 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”.

Dickinson added: “Retailers are going above and beyond to keep their colleagues and customers safe. 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.”

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