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Home Secretary asked to support campaign against shop violence

Retailers and shop workers are calling on the Home Secretary to back their call for local authorities and police forces to make retail crime a higher priority. The move comes as new figures show an increase in threats and acts of violence against shop staff.

The figures, compiled by the British Retail Consortium, show a 50 per cent increase in incidents of physical violence against shop workers in the past year. Over the same period recorded threats of violence against staff have more than doubled.

Retailers and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) presented these findings from the BRC’s Annual Crime Survey to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith at their Shop-Crime Fringe Meeting at the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth on Wednesday.

The BRC and USDAW are making a joint call on the Home Secretary to push local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (which bring together police and local authorities) to give crime against retailers and shop workers the same level of attention as they direct toward crime and anti-social behavior in residential neighbourhoods.

Says BRC director general, Kevin Hawkins (pictured): “These figures show the current approach to shop crime is not working. Last year retail employees were subjected to around half a million incidents of abuse or violence in the workplace. This is not just about a cost to the bottom line. Behind these figures there is individual human pain and distress. It is unacceptable.

“In many areas local authorities and local police are treating retail crime as if it doesn’t matter. The Home Secretary must use her influence to ensure retailers and shop workers receive the same level of protection where they work as they rightfully expect at home.”

“The BRC’s Annual Crime Survey is the most authoritative measure of retail crime, so I am very concerned about the reported increase in incidents last year, particularly those involving violence or the threat of violence to staff,” says USDAW general secretary, John Hannett.

“The number of reported incidents thankfully remains much lower than the peak in 2003, when USDAW launched our Freedom from Fear campaign, and this is a result of the work USDAW, the BRC and many good retail employers have done to combat the problem.

“We want local partnerships of retailers, shop workers, councils and police to work together to rid our shops and shopping areas of this criminal and antisocial behaviour. This not only affects retailers and staff, but customers and the wider community as well. Which makes it all the more important that we work together.”

Tracy Low, who is a USDAW rep and shop floor worker said: “Incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers are far too common. Verbal abuse is a daily experience for many and it can really grind you down. We, along with retailers, are asking for respect, because we feel very strongly that abuse is not a part of the job.”

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