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Violence against UK retail workers hits 1,300 incidents a day

People by Hampstead Underground Station, London, UK, retail shops on the background

Violence and abuse against UK shop workers has risen drastically to an average of 1,300 incidents a day in 2003.

The shocking figures mark a 50 percent increase from 870 daily incidents in the previous year. 

This surge in hostility has sparked major concern among retail industry leaders.

It prompted the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to criticise the government's efforts to tackle what it describes as a "growing crisis." 

The Home Office has yet to respond to these criticisms.

The BRC's recent survey highlighted a record high in losses due to shoplifting, underscoring the situation's urgency. 

Several business leaders said violence against shop workers should be a separate criminal offense in England and Wales.

This is already the case in Scotland.

Racist abuse, sexual harassment, physical assaults, and threats involving weapons are major crimes.

8,800 staff injured

Approximately 8,800 of these cases resulted in injuries to staff.

The BRC survey also revealed a leap in customer theft incidents.

These doubled to 16.7 million annually from a previous count of eight million. 

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: "despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing.

"No one should have to go to work fearing for their safety. This is a crisis that demands action now."

The financial toll of shoplifting on retailers reached a historic high of £1.8 billion over the last year.

The cost rose above the £1 billion threshold for the first time.

Retailers noted a shift in shoplifting behavior due to the cost-of-living crisis.

They say thieves have moved from stealing a few items to much larger hauls.

The pandemic saw a tripling in incidents against staff, a trend that has not subsided.

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Retailers invested around £1.2 billion in crime prevention measures like CCTV, enhanced security staff, and body-worn cameras.

The government's Retail Crime Action Plan, which promises a police commitment to prioritising incidents of violence against shop workers, has been welcomed as a step in the right direction. 

Policing Minister Chris Philp's advocated a zero-tolerance approach to shoplifting at the plan's unveiling last October offers hope. 

An open letter from over 50 businesses, including major names like John Lewis and the Post Office, called for better recording and recognition of assaults on shop workers in police statistics.

The Co-op reported a sharp rise in physical attacks on its staff last year, with 1,325 incidents, highlighting the severity of the issue. 

The situation has been described as an "epidemic" by the head of John Lewis, reflecting the widespread concern over this escalating problem in the retail sector.

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