High street staples including Tesco, Aldi and Primark have signed a letter urging police commissioners to prioritise tackling crimes against shop staff.
Some 105 retailers have written to police and crime commissioners in England and Wales, calling for more help with increasing violence and anti-social behaviour towards workers.
Reports of abuse towards shop staff have sky-rocketed since the onset of the Covid pandemic, with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) claiming there were 1,300 incidents every single day for the period April 2020 to March 2021.
“We are increasingly concerned about reports of rising levels of violence, abuse, and anti-social behaviour which is partly linked to tackling shoplifting,” the letter, organised by the BRC, states.
Earlier this year, an amendment to a new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 introduced tougher sentences for those convicted of violence and abuse against retail workers.
Now, signatories have urged officials to commit to making retail crime a priority in their local policing plan and to monitor how new sentencing guidelines are used.
The letter also called on PCCs to work with businesses to look at how to make reporting simpler and to push local officers to investigate all reports of such incidents.
“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,” Helen Dickinson OBE, BRC chief executive, said.
New legislation would only have an impact “if police successfully investigate and prosecute these incidents,” she said.
Last month, the shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw said that it was increasingly concerned with swelling reports of shoplifting.
Police recorded crime statistics had revealed that in the 12 months to March 2022 there was a 21 per cent increase in shoplifting over the previous year.
“Shoplifting is not a victimless crime, theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers,” Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary said.
“Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers.”
The union said the cost of living crisis was driving people to shoplift and called on the government to take “immediate steps” to help struggling households.
Measures the government could introduce included boosting workers’ pay and employment rights, slashing VAT and “an uprating of in-work benefits in line with inflation,” the union boss said.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “The Mayor is committed to doing everything he can to ensure London is the safest place to live, work and do business. He is clear that violence and abuse against retail workers is completely unacceptable and must be treated with the seriousness it deserves.
“Retail crime is a priority in the Mayor’s Policing and Crime plan and Sadiq supports legislation, announced in December 2021, which would classify attacking a retail worker, transport worker or anyone in a public-facing job as an aggravated assault – to make sure that the perpetrators of these cowardly attacks face tougher sanctions.”