Retailers and their staff need more protection against crime

Last March, a shooting in a South London convenience store left two people with serious injuries for life and a retailer traumatised. The reason? It was the only store open at night, which attracted a gangland rivalry to its door.

Five-year-old Thusha Kamaleswaran, niece of the store’s owner, now requires round-the-clock care and will be paralysed for the rest of her life. Roshan Selvakumar, 35, a customer, was also injured.

Kazeem Kolawole, 19, Anthony McCalla, 19, and Nathaniel Grant, 21, were all found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent. Grant was previously linked with a shooting of an 18-year-old in a Costcutter store in South London, of which he was acquitted. They will be sentenced later this month, but no matter how long they spend in prison, it will not make up for the fact that a little girl will never walk again.

While the shocking attack gained the national media’s attention, the vulnerability of retailers and their staff every time they open late goes largely unnoticed.

Yet a scheme running in Liverpool and now in London wants late-night opening retailers to play an integral part in protecting locals from crime. City Safe London is calling on retailers to open later at night to provide a safe haven for members of the public who are being pursued or threatened. Organisers want to create City Safe Zones across their neighbourhoods, involving local authorities, police and businesses in the process.

What we want:
● Sentences for crimes against shopworkers to be classified similarly to those against other workers put in harm’s way by serving the community
● A more visible police presence on the streets, especially at night
● A commitment to investigate all crimes previously deemed low-level, such as shoplifting.

What you can do:
● Sign the petition at: Ask your staff and customers to sign it, too. If the petition gets 100,000 signatures the issue will have to be debated in parliament
● Meet your community crime prevention officer to see how they can help
● Report every crime, no matter how trivial it seems, so that police can get a true picture of the challenges faced by store owners.

CitySafe Havens across our neighbourhoods - whereby shopkeepers pledge to report 100% crime and anti-social behaviour to the police, as well as spend time building links with their neighbours and offering their premises as places of refuge for those in immediate danger

While any move to combat crime is to be applauded, one obvious question remains unanswered: who is going to protect the retailers?
London retailer Mahesh Patel of Yogi Smurti Newsagents in Shepherd’s Bush was one of the retailers to have been approached to participate in the City Safe scheme. He agrees wholeheartedly with its aims, but has concerns about his own safety should he decide to open his store for longer.

“City Safe is a good idea - if someone’s in trouble, we’ll help them,” he says. “But I would be concerned about opening later in the evenings as it leaves us vulnerable to violence, especially if we’re the only shop open at that time on the high street.”

Organisers of the scheme in Liverpool, which was launched last year, say City Safe has had positive results, such as a 29% decrease in violent crime in the operating areas.

Whether a retailer is involved in a City Safe scheme or not, getting involved with their local community and working with their local police force are ways in which retailers can help to combat crime and anti-social behaviour.

Most police forces have neighbourhood policing teams willing to work with retailers - all you have to do is pick up the phone and make contact.