Ministers are being urged to make retail crime a higher priority after new figures revealed an increase in threats and acts of violence against shop workers.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said incidents of physical violence against store staff have risen by 50 per cent over the past year, while threats of violence have more than doubled during the same period. Incidents per store also shot up by 18 per cent with verbal abuse episodes showing a six per cent hike.
Supported by the BRC, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) will today present the findings to home secretary Jacqui Smith during a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth.
Both organisations are calling on Smith to push for police and local authorities to work together against retail crime and give it the same level of attention as directed toward crime and anti-social behaviour in residential neighbourhoods.
Kevin Hawkins, BRC director general, said: “These figures show the current approach to shop crime is not working. Last year retail employees were subjected to around half a million incidents of abuse or violence in the work place.
“This is not just about a cost to the bottom line. Behind these figures there is individual human pain and distress. It is unacceptable.
“In many areas local authorities and local police are treating retail crime as if it doesn’t matter. The home secretary must use her influence to ensure retailers and shop workers receive the same level of protection where they work as they rightfully expect at home.”
Tracy Low, an USDAW rep and shop floor worker, added: “Incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers are far too common. Verbal abuse is a daily experience for many and it can really grind you down. We along with retailers are asking for respect, because we feel very strongly that abuse is not a part of the job.”