Over the past 12 weeks, retailers have had the opportunity to tell the Home Office directly about the impact of violence and abuse on them and their staff.
This is an important process, because we know that one of the biggest problems with abusive behaviour in stores is that it rarely gets reported. When there are fewer reports, the official crime figures go down and it looks like the situation is improving, so it’s more likely that fewer resources will be allocated to dealing with the problem.
Thousands of stores have now sent in their stories of dealing with violence and abuse. This is not a problem that is going away on its own, which is why we’re setting out a new series of recommendations to government.
One of the biggest issues that retailers face when dealing with violence and abuse is the lack of consistent response from the justice system. People who work in shops are on the front line, serving as part of their community. If a shopworker is attacked while just doing their job, we believe offenders should receive tougher sentences in line with what they would have received had they attacked emergency workers.
The next step toward tackling this issue is a fundamental review of the out-of-court disposals system for low-level offences such as shop theft. Repeat offenders who aren’t facing any proper repercussions from stealing may feel emboldened to hold up a retailer for their till at knifepoint, or assault a member of staff, all because up to that point the force of the law has passed them by.
While there is change needed throughout the system to deal with violence, abuse and other crimes committed against shopworkers, we appreciate that it’s not just the government and those involved with the justice system that have a role to play. As mentioned earlier, low reporting is a contributor to the problem, so we as the retail sector need to make sure that when incidents occur, they always get reported.
We, along with many others in the retail sector, have set out the full detail of our recommendations in a letter to Crime Minister Victoria Atkins MP, which you can find on our website at ACS.org.uk.