Posted: Tue 20th Feb 2024

Increase in retail crime is ‘truly shocking’, says North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Feb 20th, 2024

An increase in retail crime has been described as ‘truly shocking’ by the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner.

Last week British Retail Consortium (BRC) released new figures showing a dramatic increase in both theft and violence against retail workers across the UK.

According to the latest crime survey, incidents of abuse and theft have sharply risen, with daily occurrences reaching 1,300 in the year 2022/23, up from 870 the previous year.

It comes despite significant investment in crime prevention by retailers, totalling £1.2bn—a rise from £722m the previous year.

These investments include advanced security measures such as CCTV, additional security personnel, and body-worn cameras.

However, the cost of theft alone has surged to £1.8bn, contributing to a total crime cost of £3.3bn, effectively doubling the financial burden on retailers compared to the previous year.

The BRC’s annual crime survey highlights the scale of violence and abuse faced by people working in retail, which include racial abuse, sexual harassment, physical assault, and threats with weapons.

According to retail workers the abuse is on par with levels seen during the pandemic, when staff bore the brunt of some people’s frustration with Covid safety measures.

With 60% of retail respondents rating the police response to incidents as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, there is growing dissatisfaction within the sector regarding law enforcement’s handling of these issues.

In response, there are widespread calls for the government to introduce a standalone offence for assaulting, threatening, or abusing retail workers, akin to legislation already in place in Scotland.

Commenting on the figures the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin said: “These figures from the British Retail Consortium that incidents against staff have risen by 50% in a year and thefts have doubled are truly shocking.”

“Shop assistants and colleagues have a right to go to work and feel safe, and business owners have a right to know that the police are there for them if the worst happens.”

“North Wales Police, with my full support, introduced the ‘We Don’t Buy Crime’ campaign last year and officers are active in the community in advising businesses on how to make their premises and operations more secure, and ensuring goods and property can be marked, making it harder for them to be sold on.”

“More widely, we also need to look at the social reasons behind this rise and how we can ensure that offenders are dissuaded from causing further crime.”

“This means a collaborative and whole systems approach with the Police, alongside commissioned and support services, which is at the heart of my co-operative plan for fighting crime in North Wales.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing.

“With over 1,300 incidents every day, government can no longer ignore the plight of ordinary, hardworking retail colleagues.

“Teenagers taking on their first job, carers looking for part-time work, parents working around childcare. And while the violence can be over in a moment, the victims carry these experiences with them for a lifetime.

“And we all know the impact does not stop there – it affects their colleagues, friends, and the family our colleagues go home to. This is a crisis that demands action now.

“Criminals are being given a free pass to steal goods and to abuse and assault retail colleagues.

“No one should have to go to work fearing for their safety. The Protection of Workers Act in Scotland already provides additional protection to retail workers, so why should our hardworking colleagues south of the border be offered less protection?

“It is vital that government takes action – introducing a new standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker.”

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