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Violence and abuse against retail workers tripled over pandemic

The total cost of retail crime stood at £1.5bn last year, with £663m lost to customer theft and £715m spent on crime prevention

Retail workers were subjected to a “huge” rise in violence and abuse over the pandemic, with incidents almost tripling to 1,301 per day in 2020/21, compared to 455 in 2019/20 according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The BRC’s crime survey found that of the 1,301 incidents recorded every single day, 125 were deemed as violent. BRC said this spike was concentrated in a “significantly” reduced number of stores and retail operations as much of the industry was closed throughout the year due to Covid restrictions.

The spike in incidents occurred while retail workers were on the frontline of the pandemic. While incidents of violence and abuse soared, only 4% of incidents reportedly resulted in a prosecution.

The total cost of retail crime stood at £1.5bn last year, with £663m lost to customer theft and £715m spent on crime prevention. This spending reportedly contributes to higher prices for customers by pushing up retailers’ operating costs.

Additionally, the survey also revealed that three-in-five respondents described the police response to incidents as “poor” or “very poor”.

Earlier this year, after lobbying by the BRC and its members, the UK Government introduced an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which created a statutory aggravating factor to assaults committed against those “providing a public service or performing a public duty”.

Similarly, Scotland introduced a specific offence for violence and abuse against retail workers last year.

The BRC said it will now work with Police and Crime commissioners across England and Wales to raise awareness of the new aggravated offence and to advocate for retail crime having a higher priority in local policing strategies.

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