Police cuts put convenience stores at frontline of crime

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The personal safety of retailers across the country is being put at risk as stores trade against a backdrop of rising crime and a slide in police funding, store owners have warned.

A poll of retailers by C-Store revealed that 40% had had to call the police in the past month alone. In all cases, the response had not been satisfactory.

One in five of the calls was in response to violent crime, while the rest were for theft.

Surrey retailer Dean Holborn called the police after he was threatened with a knife by a customer who he had challenged for ID.

“After verbally abusing me the man smashed a pot against the store’s window, then said he had a knife and would stab me,” Dean said. It was 4pm so there were children in the store at the time.

“I called 999, but I had to push hard for the police to come down. Because I couldn’t actually see the knife, they were reluctant. After some serious persuading they came 10 minutes later, but the man was gone by then,” he said.

Anita Nye, of Eldred Drive Stores in Orpington, Kent, took matters into her own hands when a drunk customer reacted after a member of staff refused to serve him alcohol. “The man was getting abusive so I called the police,” Anita said. “They warned me not to touch him, but I had to do something and in the end I had to physically push him out. The police arrived 20 minutes after he’d gone,” she said.

The poll also revealed that most retailers no longer report so-called “petty crimes” such as shoplifting.

Arif Ahmed, owner of Ahmed Newsagents in Coventry, said: “Shoplifting is an almost daily occurrence, but I don’t report it. Why waste my time making a phone call that I know won’t lead anywhere? It’s not the police’s fault, they simply don’t have the resources to help.

“I’d love to install an ATM but I won’t risk it as it would make me a target for raids and the protection isn’t there.”

Douglas Johnson, of Johnsons of Reepham, Norwich, said: ”The police are doing their best with limited resources. Our ATM was ram-raided this year and they were here quickly. Responses are slower for ‘petty crimes’ like shoplifting.”

Dan Cocks, owner of Premier Whitstone Village Stores, Devon, added: “Crime continues to be a real challenge. The reduction in police numbers is hurting people like us, and non-attendance by police at incidents doesn’t help.”

Fall in Police funding

Funding for police forces is down by nearly a fifth (19%) since 2010-11, a recent Public Accounts Committee report revealed.

According to the Financial Sustainability of Police Forces in England and Wales report, forces are operating with nearly 50,000 fewer members of staff, including 15% fewer officers, than in 2010.

The report claims that forces are taking longer to charge offences, making fewer arrests, and carrying out less neighbourhood policing.

Forces are also dealing with more incidents which are not crime related.

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