Retailers who have been the victims of violent crime have joined the call for action to protect them and their staff.
Earlier this week police arrested two men and a youth in connection with the death of Gurmail Singh in Huddersfield on February 20, which brings to five the number of c-store workers murdered since January 2009. Another youth has been charged with an earlier robbery in the store.
London newsagent Hurendra Bhatt, interviewed on BBC Radio 2 in the wake of the tragic events in Huddersfield, said he had been attacked several times in his shop. “It’s an everyday part of life, and we are at the receiving end,” he said.
Hurendra, who had a knife held to his stomach in one attack, was disappointed that the police took 45 minutes to come to his aid. On another occasion, he was arrested for possessing a dangerous weapon when he used a baseball bat to defend himself against an attacker.
“The law must be tightened – we need to give them a hard life. Punishment must be severe so it is a deterrent,” he said.
Darshan Singh, a former retailer and relative of Gurmail, told The Daily Telegraph: “Youngsters are not scared of the police or their parents, and they’re certainly not scared of us. The law is too soft. There’s no one to control them, and they know when they come into your shop that you can’t throw them out.”
Paul McLoughlin, who was beaten with a pistol in his Londis store in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, in February 2009, was appalled at the six-and-a-half year sentence given to his attacker. “The judge was far too lenient,” he told C-Store last year. “Retailers should be getting protection from the courts.” The sentence was extended on appeal to nine years.
New figures from the Association of Convenience (ACS) revealed a 30% rise in robberies in local stores last year, while the British Retail Consortium said physical violence against shop staff rose 58% and verbal abuse 37%.
ACS chief executive James Lowman added: “Too often, community shops are exposed to violent crime without the support they deserve from local police and agencies. Government must deliver the right policy framework, but retailers should invest in effective crime prevention measures which are now, regrettably, an essential part of running a local shop.”