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BRC finds retail theft and abuse have increased in ten of UK’s largest cities - Usdaw joins calls for mayors and PPCs to improve shopworker safety

Date: 25 July 2023 Retail trade union shares the concerns of the trade association British Retail Consortium (BRC) after they revealed new research showing that retail theft increased by an average of 27% across ten of the largest cities in the UK. Usdaw has joined the BRC in urging mayors, along with police and crime commissioners (PCCs) across the UK to improve retail workers’ protection measures.
The data also shows that incidents grew by as much as 68% in some cities. In addition, the trade association’s recent crime survey revealed that incidents of violence and abuse against retail employees increased from more than 450 per day in 2019-2020 to more than 850 per day last year. Crime against employees includes racial abuse, sexual abuse, physical assault and threats with weapons.
 
Helen Dickinson - BRC Chief Executive says: “Every time I speak with retailers, crime is getting worse. Thieves are becoming bolder and more aggressive. Violence and abusive behaviour are on the rise. Many employees are facing threats with weapons, physical assault and racial and sexual abuse.
 
“While these confrontations might be over in a matter of minutes, for many victims, their families and colleagues, the physical and emotional impact can last a lifetime. Retailers are playing their part, investing nearly £1bn into crime prevention measures in the past year alone, but more needs to be done.”
 
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says: “This BRC research adds to the weight of evidence showing that theft from shops is dramatically increasing. This month official statistics showed a 24% increase in police recorded incidents of shoplifting, which is very concerning for our members in retail.
 
“Shoplifting is not a victimless crime, theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers. Our members tell us that having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers.
 
“Usdaw’s annual survey found that three-quarters of retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Theft from shops was the trigger for nearly a third of these incidents last year. Particularly concerning is that just over half of those who did the survey said they were not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference.
 
“Faced with such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse much more needs to be done. There must be better coordination to ensure that government, retail employers, police and the courts work together to help protect shopworkers, giving them the respect they deserve.”
 
Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 350,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades www.usdaw.org.uk
 
Crime in England and Wales: Police Force Area data tables:
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peop...
 
Final results of the Usdaw 2022 survey, based on 7,752 responses, show that (last year’s results in brackets): 74.26% (89%) were verbally abused, 49.25% (63%) were threatened. 7.92% (12%) had been assaulted. 40.88% said violence, threats and abuse caused them anxiety at work and 29.97% are now considering changing job. Top triggers for abuse: 34% shoplifting and armed robbery, along with 16% age-restricted sales. The full report can be found at: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFReport2022
 
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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