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Worrying 23% increase in shoplifting across England and Wales – Usdaw calls for retail crime to be taken seriously

Date: 18 May 2023 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is deeply concerned by police recorded crime statistics for England and Wales showing that in the 12 months to December 2022 there was a 23% increase in shoplifting. This continues the trend of persistent quarterly increases after a dramatic decrease during the pandemic.
Shoplifting was decreasing slowly from a 2017 peak and plummeted during the pandemic. While the number of reported incidents haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, they are well on the way after increases in the last four consecutive quarters. Comparing the end of year stats on police recorded shoplifting clearly demonstrates the trend:
2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
+23% -1% -29% -2% -3% +8%
Usdaw’s latest annual survey of over 7,500 shopworkers found that 31% of incidents of violence, threats and abuse related to shoplifting in 2022, which is not only higher than in 2019 but also more than double the 2016 level.
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says: “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime, theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers. 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.
“This 23% increase in shoplifting shows the effect of Covid restrictions being lifted in stores last year. Social distancing and limiting the number of customers in stores does make life more difficult for shoplifters. The cost of living crisis is also a factor and theft from shops in itself contributes to rising prices as retailers try to recover losses.
“Our 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, and with many shopworkers’ lacking confidence in the ability of the system to give them the protection they need, much more needs to be done. The Government must provide the coordination needed to ensure that retail employers, police and the courts work together to make stores safe places for our members to work and for customers to shop.”
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/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/policeforceareadatatables
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
Comparison 2019 2020 2021 2022
Abuse 68% 88% 89% 74%
Threats 43% 61% 63% 49%
Violence 5% 9% 12% 8%
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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