Retail workers are experiencing “appalling levels” of violent incidents at nearly double the rate of pre-pandemic figures, data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) crime survey has revealed.
The incidents include physical assault, racial and sexual abuse, and threats with weapons.
The 2023 survey, released on 2 March, revealed that stores experienced 867 incidents a day with 8 million incidents in total in 2021/22.
This is down from 1,301 incidents a day at the height of the pandemic but has nearly doubled the pre-pandemic figure of 455 incidents a day in 2019-20.
Find out more: Policing minister stresses tackling retail crime is a ‘priority’
Retail crime brings a big financial cost to businesses with the survey showing that £953m was lost to customer theft in the last year whilst retailers spent £715m on crime prevention, totaling the cost of retail crime at £1.76bn.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “The pandemic has normalised appalling levels of violent and abusive behaviour against retail workers. While a confrontation may be over in minutes, for many victims, their families and colleagues, the physical and emotional impact can last a lifetime. To make the UK a safer place to work the Home Office must improve its reporting around the amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and the police must prioritise adequately resourcing retail crime. Surely everyone deserves the right to go to work without fear.”
Sussex police and crime commissioner, Katy Bourne, acknowledged the remaining gaps in reporting processes and police response. To bridge these gaps, she is encouraging businesses to “report incidents and provide evidence” to help identify offenders, so that PCCs can ensure that retailers concerns “get national and local policing attention”.
Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of Retail Trust, added: “Our message at the Retail Trust is clear. This is simply not acceptable and if you are a retail colleague suffering from any kind of abuse, threats or violence, please report this to your manager and call the Retail Trust’s wellbeing helpline (0808 801 0808) if you need any help dealing with your experiences.”
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