Businesses call on police to prioritise retail crime

Over 100 UK retail brands have written to police and crime commissioners in England and Wales, calling on them to commit to making retail crime a priority in local policing strategies.

In the joint letter, 106 retailers expressed their increasing concerns about the rising levels of violence, abuse, and anti-social behaviour across their operations, and the emotional impact it can have on victims and their colleagues. The letter says that the rise in retail crime “is partly linked to tackling shoplifting [which] pushes up the cost of operating and results in higher prices for everyone”.

The letter notes that retailers have set out the steps they are taking to protect retail workers, having spent £715m on crime prevention in 2020-21, according to the latest crime survey from the British Retail Consortium. Measures include hiring in-store security teams, training teams on de-escalation, and investing in CCTV and body worn cameras for staff, but the firms say local police support is vital to protecting retail workers.

According to the BRC survey, retail workers were subjected to a huge rise in violence and abuse during the pandemic, with incidents almost tripling from 455 per day in 2019-20 to 1,300 in 2020-21. The letter from retailers calls on the PCCs to commit to making retail crime a priority in their local policing plan, work with local businesses to investigate ways to make reporting simpler, and to push their local force to investigate all reports of violence and abuse against retail workers.

Earlier this year, 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”. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Every incident against a retail worker is one too many. Retailers are going above and beyond to keep their colleagues and customers safe, hiring in-store security teams, training staff on de-escalation, and investing in CCTV and body worn cameras.

“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 PCCs to make retail crime a priority across the board.”

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