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Every week I worry about another Co-op colleague being a victim of violence while working. Our latest research shows that retail crime has reached epidemic proportions, with 115 retail workers physically attacked every day in the UK, with many more verbally abused and threatened. This needs to change. We need the UK Government to urgently protect shop workers and send a clear message that violence and verbal aggression will not be tolerated in shops.
It’s not part of the job, it has to stop
Nothing is more important to me than protecting Co-op colleagues. I’ve worked in retail businesses for more than 20 years and I’ve never seen such high levels of violence and abuse.
Retail crime is not a victimless crime. Behind every statistic is a person who has experienced violence or verbal abuse while simply doing their job. And this is having lasting effects on the lives of colleagues, both mentally and physically. It is not part of the job to be verbally abused, threatened or attacked and we’re determined to make sure it isn’t. In addition to industry-led initiatives, the sector needs Government action to stop abuse against shop workers and address the underlying causes that are known to result in violence.
I hope that the recommendations in the report we’ve released today will begin the first step for UK Government, businesses, law enforcement and trade unions to work together to develop a strategy to protect all shop workers.
What our research says
Our research identified four main causes for the violence and abuse towards shop workers;
- encountering shoplifters
- enforcing legislation relating to the sale of age-restricted goods and other prohibited sales
- hate-motivated incidents
- armed and unarmed robberies
The same research has set out seven key recommendations to tackle assault and abuse against shop workers, including;
- a review of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act (ASBCPA) 2014, specifically to consider the impact that financial values set in the Act have had on levels of theft
- the introduction of new legislation which would carry higher penalties for attacks where the shop worker is enforcing the law on age-restricted sales, such as cigarettes or alcohol
- a change to expectations of shop workers regarding age-restricted sales to move the onus onto customers to voluntarily prove their age as opposed to shop workers having to enforce the legislation
- measurement of hate-motivated offences in shops and provide adequate support for those targeted
- dealing with the root causes with better mental health provision and drug treatment programs
What we’re doing about it
We have invested over £70 million since 2015, and our AGM this year and have committed to match this over the next three years. This investment is going towards innovative technology to keep our colleagues safe, including the installation of the latest remote monitored CCTV; communication headset devices rolled-out to all front-line colleagues and the targeted deployment of SmartWater Fog Cannons.
But we’re now calling on the industry, UK Government and communities to work together to tackle the root causes of violence, not just the symptoms. Tackling violence requires long term investment in communities and an effective criminal justice system that works to address the root causes of crime. The violence is preventable, not inevitable.
Co-op Food CEO