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Survey shows rise in retail violence and abuse

19 February 2024

VIOLENCE AND abuse against retail workers soared last year, with the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) crime survey revealing that the number of incidents rose to 1,300 per day in 2022/23 from almost 870 per day the year before.

This rise comes despite retailers investing heavily in crime prevention, spending £1.2bn on measures such as CCTV, increased security personnel, and body worn cameras, up from £722m the previous year. The cost of theft to retailers went up to £1.8bn from £953m the previous year, meaning the total cost of crime to retailers stood at £3.3bn – double the previous year.

The BRC’s annual crime survey highlights the scale of violence and abuse faced by people working in retail. Incidents, which include racial abuse, sexual harassment, physical assault, and threats with weapons, are now on a par with the levels seen during the pandemic, when staff bore the brunt of some people’s frustration with Covid safety measures. 

While the total number of incidents climbed, dissatisfaction with the police increased, with 60% of respondents describing the police response to incidents as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

Retailers are calling on the Government to introduce a standalone offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker. This would send a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, making retail workers feel safer in the workplace. It would also mean the police have data that allows them to understand the scale of the issue, and to allocate sufficient resources to deal with it. This would ensure that retail workers have the same protection under the law as they do in Scotland, where a similar offence was introduced in 2021.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium said, “Despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing. With over 1,300 incidents every day, government can no longer ignore the plight of ordinary, hardworking retail colleagues. Teenagers taking on their first job, carers looking for part-time work, parents working around childcare. And while the violence can be over in a moment, the victims carry these experiences with them for a lifetime. And we all know the impact does not stop there – it affects their colleagues, friends, and the family our colleagues go home to. This is a crisis that demands action now.

“Criminals are being given a free pass to steal goods and to abuse and assault retail colleagues. No one should have to go to work fearing for their safety. The Protection of Workers Act in Scotland already provides additional protection to retail workers, so why should our hardworking colleagues south of the border be offered less protection? It is vital that government takes action – introducing a new standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker.”

Katy Bourne OBE, Sussex police & crime commissioner and APCC lead for business crime said, “The levels of retail crime described in this report reveal an unprecedented level of selfish lawlessness. Every day, retail staff are facing the consequences of shoplifters’ brazen behaviour and that’s why I have supported the call for a specific offence of assault on a shopworker.

“Our courts need to work more efficiently, and shoplifters need to be deterred from re-offending. That’s why I’m calling for my fellow Police & Crime Commissioners to focus their police forces on tackling shoplifting by making it a priority in their local Police & Crime Plans."

Read the full report at: https://brc.org.uk/media/jrggbwvq/brc-crime-survey-report-2024.pdf