Over the years my shops have suffered two firearms robberies and several with knives or offensive weapons. It’s all too easy to just simply accept these events as an occupational hazard, but when you also take into consideration the daily shoplifting, verbal abuse, attempted burglaries and vandalism it doesn’t paint a rosy picture of life as a convenience store retailer.
We refit our shops to make them as accessible as possible to the public, but at the same time we make them an easier target for criminals. We provide a wider range of services in order to stay competitive and many of us openly handle thousands of pounds in cash for council tax payments, all very tempting to the opportunist thief.
Last week I installed £1,000-worth of grilles at the rear of one of my shops after a failed burglary attempt, and this week I am having a £3,000 upgrade to my CCTV systems. These will help, but they do nothing to stop youths or desperate drug users who believe they can simply walk armed into any shop and take whatever they want. Is the next step for us to work behind bullet-proof glass?
Police response to our incidents is mixed, dependent on how they prioritise it and who is assigned to deal with it. With beat officers a thing of the past, we rely upon PCSO's who can range from responsive and proactive through to uninterested. As quickly as you build up a relationship with them, they have been moved on and you have to start again.
We urgently need to highlight the extent of the problems we face and draw government attention and support, and ultimately harsher penalties. If those who perpetrate these crimes were more aware of the potential punishment they might receive, it could go some way to reducing their number.
We are all aware that we should report all incidents, but do we? Napoleon once described this country as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’. He would now have to revise that to a ‘nation of intimidated shopkeepers’.