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RUTH SUNDERLAND: Stores hit by crime wave


RUTH SUNDERLAND: Shops hit by a crime wave

  • Stores that equip customer-facing employees with body cameras
  • It paints a depressing picture of a decline in civility, behavior, and values.
  • Supermarkets and stores must be a safe environment

Working in a shop shouldn’t be high on any list of dangerous occupations.

However, in three years, there has been a huge increase in violent and abusive incidents against retail staff.

At Tesco, Co-op and other major chains, it’s gotten to the point where employees who deal directly with customers are equipped with body cameras, as we reported in this weekend’s Mail on Sunday.

Even the posh John Lewis Partnership has introduced body cameras for staff in stores and at the posh Waitrose supermarket chain.

Chain stores are installing more CCTV. Along with the use of body cameras, this raises customer privacy concerns, which must be weighed against the safety of workers.

Depressing picture: The Cooperative has spoken out about its higher levels of crime and anti-social behavior

It paints a dismal picture of declining civility, behavior and values. Supermarkets and stores should be a safe environment that serves your local community.

Some retail bosses are reluctant to speak publicly for fear of discouraging customers, most of whom treat staff politely.

But his silence risks sweeping a very real problem under the rug.

It is important not to overdo it. Most of the stores have not become places of urban dystopia. Going to the local supermarket has not become the equivalent of visiting Andre’s convenience store and drug stash on the US TV series The Wire.

It is disconcerting, however, that body cameras, once confined to high-conflict functions, are now a standard part of shop worker uniforms. And for some stores in some areas, the situation is dire.

The cooperative has spoken out about the highest levels of crime and anti-social behavior in its history and warns that it could be forced to close stores in some communities.

The trigger for the increase in attacks was the pandemic. Shoppers were stressed and frustrated by the lack of product availability. Inexcusably, some took out their anger on the store staff.

But nasty and criminal behavior hasn’t gone away post-Covid. Rather, it seems to have taken hold.

To be sure, the cost-of-living crisis is also fueling the fury at the cash registers, though store workers, most of whom earn modest salaries, don’t deserve to be attacked. In a recent industry survey, they reported being hit, yelled at, subjected to racial or sexual slurs, spat at, and threatened.

Most incidents were not reported to the police and, if they were, the result was that little or no action was taken.

The Cooperative says that 71 percent of serious crimes in retail go unanswered by the police.

Industry-wide, there were more than 850 violent or abusive episodes every day in 2021/22, nearly double the pre-pandemic level. In a year, that adds up to about 300,000 people.

The effect on victims can be profound, particularly when they have to return to their workplace and may be anxious to meet the attacker again.

Taken together, this is a surprisingly large number of people.

In addition to the human cost, there is also a great financial cost. Losses from crime and associated prevention measures total £1.8 billion across the retail industry.

This is passed on to the customer in the form of higher prices.

Retail workers were among the unsung heroes of the pandemic and made sure the nation was fed. Some store chains want assaults on their staff to be classified as a specific offence. This would act as a deterrent and facilitate the collection of robust data on the magnitude of the problem. The Government and police forces must treat it with the seriousness it deserves.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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