Nine out of ten shop workers have been victim of abuse over the past year, new research has found.
The 2021 Crime Report, published by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), reveals that 89% of shop workers have experienced some form of abuse, with over 1.2million incidents recorded over the last year.
The report also found that crimes committed against the convenience sector cost £142m over the last year alone, equating to over £3,000 per store. Meanwhile more than £175m has been spent by retailers on crime prevention measures such as CCTV, external security staff and intruder alarms. The ACS calculated that this investment, combined with the cost of crimes committed, means there is effectively a 5p crime tax on every transaction in stores.
“Customers have threatened to cough on colleagues and ‘give them Coronavirus’ and further threats of assaults because people have had to queue to enter stores, social distance or simply because they do not have a specific product.” - Craig Goldie, Central England Co-op
There were also an estimated 1.1 million incidents of shop theft recorded in the convenience sector over the past year. The study also found that there have been around 40,000 incidents of violence against people working in convenience stores. Of these, over one in four involved a weapon, such as a knife, hammer, axe or syringe.
ACS chief executive James Lowman warned that this level of abuse against retail staff is unacceptable. “Over a million shop thefts and incidents of violence and abuse aren’t just big numbers, each one is a crime that has a personal impact on retailers and their colleagues. For so many people in local shops to have suffered this kind of abuse, just for doing their jobs, is shocking and must not be allowed to be normalised.
“Convenience stores have been on the front line serving their communities throughout the last year, but despite this they have been the constant target of criminals, often repeat offenders, who aren’t being dealt with properly by the justice system. This results in fewer retailers being willing to report crimes and less trust in the ability of the police to respond to incidents when they occur.”
He urged action from the authorities on the issue and encouraged retailers to engage ahead of the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections later this year. “We need action now to ensure that everyone, from neighbourhood police and the courts to Police and Crime Commissioners and central Government, takes crimes committed against retailers and their colleagues seriously. The upcoming PCC elections in May are an opportunity for every candidate to set out their priorities and commit to tackling this issue and supporting local shops.”
Just 18 of the 42 current PCCs included any reference to business crime in their Police and Crime Plans, therefore ACS has called on all prospective PCCs to take action in four areas to support local shops:
- Create police-led business engagement teams with dedicated resource to engage with the retail sector
- Provide funding for ‘Second Chance’ Programmes to deal with repeat offenders suffering from addiction issues
- Use Community Remedy Powers to ban repeat offenders from local shops
- Provide better support for victims of violence and abuse in local shops
Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents have seen Covid-19-related threats to staff, with the most common causes of Covid-19-related abuse being:
- Reminding customers to wear face coverings
- Reminding customers of social distancing measures
- Queueing outside stores
- Requesting removal of face coverings to check ID
(Source: ACS Crime Survey 2021)