Shoplifters steal £935million in 12 months before lockdown
Record year for shoplifters as they steal £935million in 12 months before lockdown… and retail workers suffer hundreds of abusive attacks each day, new report claims
- Customer theft hit £935m in year to March 2020, up 21 per cent on previous year
- There were 165k violent attacks or threats against shopworkers in the 12 months
- Total cost of crime to retailers, including prevention measures, stood at £2.5bn
- Study before pandemic, but experts said Covid had made matters worse for staff
Shoplifting has soared to record levels of nearly a billion pounds a year, a shocking report reveals.
Customer theft reached £935 million in the year to March 2020, up 21 per cent on the previous 12 months, according to a study by the British Retail Consortium.
In addition, retail workers are suffering hundreds of violent and abusive incidents a day.
There were 165,000 violent attacks or threats against shopworkers during the 12 months. On average, there were 450 incidents a day, including 45 involving the use of a weapon.
Customer theft reached £935 million in the year to March 2020, up 21 per cent on the previous 12 months, according to a study by the British Retail Consortium (file photo)
Only 54 per cent of incidents are reported to police and 155,000 cases of violence or threatening behaviour led to no prosecutions. ‘In other words, in 94 out of 100 cases, the employee was let down by the system,’ the consortium’s report said.
The total cost of crime to retailers, including crime prevention measures, stood at £2.5 billion, up £300 million on the previous year.
The study covers the period before the pandemic, but experts said Covid had made matters worse for shop staff. They are dealing with more cases of intimidation as they try to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing rules.
Tom Ironside, the BRC’s director of business and regulation, said: ‘These figures don’t cover the vast majority of the pandemic, but we have had a lot of information shared to show there was a trigger point caused by the virus and rule enforcement.
‘That was sometimes issues between customers calling each other out, or when shop floor colleagues had to enforce rules. It was a huge challenge for the retail workforce.’
Iona Blake, security and incident manager at Boots UK, said: ‘Frustrations and anxieties about Covid clearly became issues on the shop floor.
‘We saw particular instances of abuse against East Asian staff members as a result of Covid, for example, with it fuelling that racial hate.’
The BRC has called for assaulting or abusing retail staff to be made a specific criminal offence, mirroring steps already underway in Scotland.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: ‘Despite clear evidence showing the escalation of violence and abuse against retail workers, the Government has time and time again chosen not to act.
Shop staff are dealing with more cases of intimidation as they try to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing rules (file photo)
‘These are not mere statistics, those affected are our parents, our partners and our children, all who needlessly suffer just for doing their job.
‘Many incidents arise as staff carry out their legal duties, including age verification and more recently, implementing Covid safety measures.
‘And, despite retailers spending enormous sums on crime prevention, the situation is only getting worse.’
She added: ‘Scotland has sent a clear message that the rise in violence and abuse must end, and the rest of the UK must follow their lead.’
The report comes after senior police officers admitted last month APR that forces are providing an ‘unacceptable’ response to attacks on shopworkers.
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