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Retail crime continues to climb, costing industry £2.5bn, BRC demands action

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The survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) shows a shocking 7% rise in incidents of violence and abuse against shopworkers, now at 455 each day – and costing retailers £2.5bn, including £935m in theft alone. Only 6% of incidents of violence and abuse result in prosecution

The total cost of crime has soared over the last three years, from £0.7bn in 2016/17 to £1.3bn in 2019/20, according to the BRC’s 2021 Retail Crime Survey. The most significant part of this was customer theft, which cost companies £935m. This rise comes despite retailers continuing to spend record sums of £1.2 billion on crime prevention.

In September 2020, the BRC launched its Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge, calling on politicians to stand with retail workers to support legislation for better protection. The pledge has so far been signed by over 55 MPs from all major parties. This came after the Prime Minister told Parliament in 2020, that “we should not tolerate crimes of violence against shopworkers”.

The BRC is now calling for a statutory offence for assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker. The Scottish Parliament has already taken decisive action to better protect retail workers through Daniel Johnson MSP’s Shopworker Protection Bill. This means retail staff are better protected in Dumfries than they are thirty miles south in Carlisle.

Similar legislation must be introduced in the rest of the UK and the BRC is urging the Bill Committee, which is currently scrutinising the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to support changes proposed by Shadow Policing Minister, Sarah Jones MP. A new statutory offence would toughen sentences for those who are violent or abusive towards shopworkers, deter future perpetrators, and ensure shopworkers feel safer at work. This is combined with calls for police forces across the UK to prioritise retail crime and improve their response to incidents. 

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, says: “Will retail workers in England and Wales ever receive the protection they deserve? Despite clear evidence showing the escalation of violence and abuse against retail workers, the Government has time and time again chosen not to act. “

She adds: “These are not mere statistics, those affected are our parents, our partners and our children, all who needlessly suffer, just for doing their job. Many incidents arise as staff carry out their legal duties, including age verification and more recently, implementing Covid safety measures. And, despite retailers spending enormous sums on crime prevention, the situation is only getting worse. Scotland has sent a clear message that the rise in violence and abuse must end, and the rest of the UK must follow their lead.”

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