Shoplifting was decreasing slowly from a 2017 peak and plummeted during the pandemic. While the number of reported incidents hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, they are well on the way after increases in the last five consecutive quarters. The trend is clear when comparing the year-on-year stats on police recorded shoplifting:
Usdaw’s annual survey of over 7,500 shopworkers found that 34% of incidents of violence, threats and abuse related to shoplifting and armed robbery, 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 25% increase in shoplifting is further evidence that we are facing an epidemic of retail crime, which is hugely concerning.
“Our members have reported that they are often faced with hardened career criminals in the stores and we know that retail workers are much more likely to be abused by those who are stealing to sell goods on. This week the Justice Secretary announced a softening of
sentencing policy for what they regard as ‘low-level’ crimes, which could add to the impression that theft from shops has been decriminalised. Victims would be further distressed if violent shoplifters are not appropriately punished for the terror they reign in stores.
“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 and armed robbery were triggers for a third of these incidents. 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.
“Labour has committed to give shopworkers ‘Freedom From Fear’ and deliver on our campaign objectives. Last week Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper committed the next Labour Government to: 13,000 more neighbourhood police with guaranteed patrols in town centres; Respect Orders to ban repeat offenders from town centres; a standalone offence for assaulting a worker serving the public and will end the £200 threshold for investigating and prosecuting shop theft.
“Usdaw is urging our members and the wider shopping public to sign a new House of Commons petition that seeks to protect retail workers from violence, threats and abuse by extending the Scottish protection of workers law to the rest of the UK. The Government has repeatedly blocked that, so this petition offers them a last chance before the election to take a step in the right direction.”
The petition can be signed at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/647093
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 recorded theft has increased by 10% (to 1.7 million offences) compared with the year ending June 2022. This rise was predominantly the result of increases in theft offences against businesses, such as shoplifting (a 25% increase to 365,164 offences).”
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. 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. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/...
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion