Another violent attack on a convenience store raises the question: are the authorities doing enough to protect those working in the service industry?
The threat of violence that is part of a retailer’s everyday life has once again hit home with the recent gun attack at a South London convenience store.
The Stockwell Food & Wine store in Lambeth was the inadvertent target of a gangland attack that resulted in shop worker Roshan Selvakumar being shot in the head and a five-year-old girl wounded in the stomach. Several arrests have been made following the incident and both victims are in a stable condition, but the attack poses questions over the safety of retailers at work and how much protection is afforded to them by the authorities.
What we want:
An increased police presence on the streets, providing a deterrent for criminals
A recognition that convenience stores are a vulnerable community service, and so introduce sentencing for crimes against shopworkers similar to those for crimes against other public servants such as police officers and nurses
Authorities to acknowledge so-called ‘low-level’ crime such as shoplifting and anti-social behaviour
A clarification on what is defined as business crime that is uniform across all UK police forces
Even though the attack took place late in the evening, the convenience store was still open for business, leaving staff members vulnerable to crime. Opening late is all part of the job for store workers who are providing for their community’s needs, but a strong police presence in the area would have gone a long way to ensuring the safety of the staff and its customers.
In an effort to help curb crime at a local level, the government’s champion for active safer communities, Baroness Helen Newlove, has proposed a raft of changes to how neighbourhoods deal with crime and anti-social behaviour, including tax rebates for businesses that get involved in preventative activities.
She is also challenging everyone to stand up and do their bit to cut down on crime in the community.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman says that while retailers have a part to play in crime prevention, support from the authorities is still needed. “Retailers can be key figures in the fight against anti-social behaviour, rather than seeing themselves as the victims of it,” he says. “But since local shops are so often the victims of these problems, innovative solutions such as Baroness Newlove’s will be welcomed by neighbourhood retailers throughout the country.”
What you can do:
Meet with your crime prevention officer and see what you can do to help the police do their job
Report every crime, no matter how insignificant it may seem
Join or create a business crime partnership in your area that involves other businesses, local police and your MP
Take part in the anti-social behaviour consultation which has been extended until May 17. Go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/consultations/asb-consultation. Alternatively, contact C-Store on 01293 610222 and we’ll make sure your views are heard.
Her proposals come at a time when emotions over the level of crime affecting retailers are running high. The police are facing swingeing cuts in their workforce in the next four years and the Police Federation predicts that the effectiveness of the force will be compromised as a result. It seems that the responsibility for safety may well lie in retailers’ own hands.
Given the number of hours that retailers work to service the community and the pressures that come with running a business, having to protect themselves and their staff due to budget cuts hardly seems like a good deal. It appears the Big Society has not yet reached the independent retail sector, with store owners forced to ward off the threat of crime as well as serve the local community.