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    Shoplifting incidents rise by 20 per cent across Northern Ireland

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    Police recorded shoplifting incidents have increased by 19.4 per cent in Northern Ireland in the year to April, new figures released on Thursday have shown.

    The jump in shoplifting, which has reached the highest level recorded, stands in contrast to most other victim-based crimes which have seen a decline.

    Responding to the “hugely concerning” statistics from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), retail trade union Usdaw sought Stormont support for a Scottish-style protection of shop workers’ law.

    “It is deeply disturbing for our members to see a significant increase in theft from shops, particularly when the trend for all other theft crimes is going down. Shoplifting has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shop workers,” Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said.

    “Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself, like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers. PSNI recording a near 20 per cent increase in shoplifting is further evidence that we are facing an epidemic of retail crime, which is hugely concerning.”

    Usdaw’s latest annual survey of over 5,500 retail staff across the UK showed that 18 per cent of shop workers suffered a violent attack last year, compared to 8 per cent in 2022. Six in 10 respondents said that incidents of violence, threats and abuse they’d experienced were triggered by shoplifting and armed robbery. The increase in assaults comes during an epidemic of retail crime, with official statistics and reports from retailers showing significantly higher levels of theft from shops.

    “Our members have reported that they are often faced with hardened career criminals in stores, and we know that retail workers are much more likely to be abused by those who are stealing to sell goods on. Our latest survey results show that 7 in 10 retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. 60 per cent of respondents said theft from shops and armed robbery were triggers for these incidents,” Lillis added.

     “The scale of assaults, abuse and threats towards shop workers and extent of the retail crime epidemic have been a disgrace for many years. We are seeking to meet with Stormont ministers to make progress on the introduction of a standalone offence for assaulting a retail worker, similar to legislation we successfully campaigned for in Scotland.”

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