Whilst the police are under severe pressure due to government cuts, Usdaw would not recommend that its members, or other shopworkers, take this course of action.
Shopworkers detaining thieves is neither safe nor practical. Most shopworkers are not trained to deal with this type of incident and stores do not have the facilities where a perpetrator could be held securely and safely.
Usdaw’s annual survey of shopworkers shows a 25 per cent increase in violence, the British Retail Consortium reported a doubling of violence in their annual retail Crime Survey and the Office for National Statistics reported a 10 per cent increase in police recorded incidents of shoplifting during the year to September 2017.
Also, the Association of Convenience Stores recently reported that there has been a 65 per cent increase in thefts from UK convenience stores from 2016 to 2017. The report also identified that challenging shop thieves was the most common trigger for violence and verbal abuse.
Paddy Lillis Usdaw General Secretary says: “The evidence shows that this is a growing problem which needs to be tackled. Theft from shops can often be a trigger for violence, threats and abuse therefore the advice from the police to detain thieves themselves is extremely worrying.
There are far better and more practical ways of dealing with this issue. Other police forces are working with the employers and their staff to develop safer ways of dealing with shop theft. The National Retail Crime Strategy Group is developing national guidelines which should be used by retailers and local police forces.
Usdaw is working with employers to make shops safer but we believe that cutting 20,000 police officers in the name of austerity is behind this problem.
Shopworkers are already on the frontline of policing the law on the sales of alcohol, knives, glue and acid. Yet, they are offered no additional protection under the law and are treated like criminals if they make a mistake.
Usdaw has worked with Daniel Johnson MSP on a Scottish Parliament Bill that provides clear and serious consequences for those who abuse or assault retail staff. Usdaw has also recently given evidence to a public bill committee on the Offensive Weapons Bill. We want an offence of attempting to illegally buy an offensive weapon to be included in the legislation so that a customer is equally liable for an illegal purchase. There should also be a specific offence for assaulting a shopworker who is enforcing the law.
Shopworkers are on the frontline and these measures would be a step forward in creating safer shops, the advice some police forces are giving seems to be a step backwards.
Shopworkers deserve the protection of the law, they shouldn’t have to fill in for the missing thousands of police officers.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with around 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion