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Retailers take crime message to PCCs

More than 100 of the UK’s leading retail voices have written to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales, calling on them to commit to making retail crime a priority in local policing strategies. 

In the letter, 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 rise in retail crime, the letter notes, “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 £715 million on crime prevention in 2020/21, according to the latest crime survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – from hiring in-store security teams, training teams on de-escalation, and investing in CCTV and body worn cameras for staff – but say local police support is vital to protecting retail workers. 

During the pandemic, retail workers were subjected to a huge rise in violence and abuse, with incidents almost tripling from 455 per day in 2019/20 to 1,300 in 2020/21, the BRC survey reports. Retailers do not want to jeopardise any progress being made as a result of their investment in crime prevention, nor do they want to see retail colleagues and their families suffering the consequences of such incidents. The letter calls on Police and Crime Commissioners to: 

1.Commit to making retail crime a priority in their local policing plan; 

2.Work with local businesses to investigate ways to make reporting simpler, to help give the police an accurate picture of the problem; 

3.Push their local force to investigate all reports of violence and abuse against retail workers, ensuring the matter is treated with the seriousness it deserves; 

4.Monitor how the new sentencing guidelines are used and the impact on violence and abuse against retail workers; 

Earlier this year, after an extensive campaign by the BRC and others, 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 OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: 

“I am proud of the incredible work done by our retail colleagues. They were among the ‘hidden heroes’ of the pandemic; working tirelessly to keep the nation fed, clothed and with access to the goods we wanted. But 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 Police and Crime Commissioners to make retail crime a priority across the board.” 

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