The number of serious violent attacks against retail staff have doubled in the past year, according to findings from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Its annual Retail Crime Survey for 2017 revealed that there were six incidents per 1,000 workers of reported violence with injury – twice the previous year’s figure.
Across all roles in retail, 13 workers were injured every day of the year in 2017.
Knives and stabbing implements were the most ‘significant’ weapon used followed by syringes, says the report, published on 8 March.
The BRC say members have reported that criminals intentionally use violence and abuse when challenged over stealing. With the figures in theft also on the increase, at 15 percent higher in terms of the direct cost of customer theft for the past year to £65 million, this is a big concern they say.
“The figures on violence present a deeply concerning picture,” said Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC.
“Retail directly employs nearly one in every 10 workers in the UK, and millions more indirectly. Retail already faces its own challenges, with margins shrinking, and against that backdrop the pressures that retail crime exerts are having a stronger impact.”
John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary, said the rise in violent attacks could also indicate the impact on shopkeepers of drives to clamp down on acid and knife attacks. In the past year, following a spate of acid attacks in London for example, shopkeepers have been urged to request ID for the sale of certain corrosive cleaning liquids.
Hannett said: “Shopworkers are on the frontline of policing the law on the sale of alcohol, knives, glue and acid.
“Parliament has given them the responsibility to police those laws, so parliament should provide shopworkers with the necessary protection. It is entirely reasonable that shopworkers continue to ask the Government for legislation to provide stiffer sentences for the thugs that assault them.
“It is time to say enough is enough. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected,” he added.
Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear Campaign survey of shopkeepers showed that 40% of shopworkers were threatened at some point in 2017, with 1% saying they suffered threats on a daily basis. The preliminary figures released in March ahead of final publication suggest that abuse and assaults are up by 25% compared with last year.
Increase in violence in shopkeepers however appears to be isolated to that industry. HSE’s violence at work statistics for 2016/17 show that the risk of being a victim of actual or threatened violence at work is similar to the past five years.
Just 1.3 per cent of working adults had been victims of one or more violent incidents at work during the past year in the industries measured. There were 269,000 assaults and 372,000 threats to victims.
Health care professionals, transport and mobile machine drivers and the police force however all reported higher than average risk of assaults or threats at work.
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