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Minister is deeply irresponsible to suggest that ‘citizen’s arrests’ are the answer to the shoplifting epidemic says Usdaw

Date: 03 October 2023 Retail trade union Usdaw has condemned the Crime and Policing Minister for his reported comments to a Conservative conference fringe meeting where it is reported that he called on the public to make citizen’s arrests in supermarkets if they saw shoplifters. The union has branded this ‘DIY policing’ as dangerous and irresponsible.
Chris Philp MP (Con, Croydon South) is reported to have told Tory activists attending the meeting organised by the think-tank Policy Exchange “…the wider public, including shop staff and security guards, do have the power of citizen’s arrest and where it’s safe to do so I would encourage that to be used.”
His comments come on the back of disturbing evidence of an epidemic of retail crime. Latest police recorded crime figures show that shoplifting has increased by a quarter in the last twelve months; Usdaw’s annual survey found that three-quarters of shopworkers were abused, threatened or assaulted and a third of those incidents were triggered by theft from shops, along with Co-op Food discovering through a Freedom of Information request that police failed to respond to 71% of reported serious retail crimes.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “This kind of ‘DIY policing’ is dangerous and irresponsible. The Minister needs to rethink his strategy, invest in putting more police on the beat and introduce a standalone offence for assaulting a shopworker, like they have in Scotland. This week we joined with retail employers in calling for action to tackle growing retail crime, but this passing of responsibility to shopworkers and shoppers is most certainly not the answer.
“Usdaw’s very clear advice to our members is not to intervene or try to detain a shoplifter, their priority is to keep themselves safe. The retail employers we deal with also give the same advice to their staff. So it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding by the Minister to suggest staff should be doing the job of the police.
“We are even more alarmed that he suggests the public should be performing citizen’s arrests in stores. Our members suffered first-hand when the public tried to police each other on Covid rules, with fights breaking out in aisles and shopworkers refereeing arguments between customers. We do not want to see a return to 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. There must be better coordination to ensure that government, retail employers, police and the courts work together to help protect shopworkers, giving them the protection they deserve. It is clear to us that only Labour has the policies to help give our members freedom from fear.”
Labour has given a commitment to Usdaw that they will continue their strong track record of keeping people safe in their work, building on the campaign to protect shopworkers from violence at work. This will include continuing support for, and ensuring that all retail workers are protected by, the measures outlined in the draft Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill and the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021.
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
BRC letter to the Home Secretary: https://brc.org.uk/media/683469/letter-to-the-homesecretary-retail-crime-september-2023.pdf
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
Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2021/6
Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2725
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers