More than 7,000 instances of assaults, threats and abuse of shop workers have been logged by Police Scotland under the nation’s recently introduced Protection of Workers Act (POWA) in less than two years.
The POWA was created to introduce stricter punishments for those who commit retail crime.
The newly released figures show that since the start of new laws in August 2021 there have been 37 serious assaults, 3,066 common assaults and 3,953 instances of threats and abuse reported to the police by retailers in Scotland up to July 2023.
Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) chief executive Dr Pete Cheema OBE said that reports of increased shoplifting are coming in from a “number of sources, alongside a rise in anti-social behaviour toward staff and within stores”.
“It is not only staff wellbeing and businesses that are being impacted by these crimes, but families and the wider community as well,” he continued.
In response, the SGF has called for greater transparency on how POWA is being used.
The trade group said it has contacted the Scottish government, the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, calling for the figures on referrals and convictions relating to the act to be made public.
This is ‘essential’ to demonstrate whether the act is a working deterrent, SGF said.
Cheema explained: “While we welcome the figures on the POW Act provided by Police Scotland, we really need to know how many of those cases are being brought to justice.
“That would encourage more retailers to report the crimes happening in-store, daily, and could be an effective way of making potential perpetrators think twice.”
SGF’s annual Scottish Retail Crime Report, released last year, reported that 100% of respondents experience shop theft at least once a day and all experience abuse, violence or hate crime on a regular basis.
In addition, SGF have approached the Scottish Government to refresh their joint Don’t Put Up With It campaign, delivered in collaboration with Crime Stoppers in 2021.
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