Retail worker union Usdaw expressed disappointment over the silence of Home Secretary Suella Braverman over epidemic of retail crime sweeping shops and high streets despite calls urgent government action.
Usdaw states that the coalition of leading voices in retail welcome the government’s 2021 changes to sentencing council guidelines for offences committed against those providing a public service, but are still looking for Ministers to go much further- firstly, with a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker, similar to the Scottish protection of workers act and secondly with a move to ensure the police prioritise these offences and improve their response to incidents.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Today the Home Secretary appeared to be more interested in divisive racist rhetoric, totally ignoring the 25 per cent increase in police recorded shoplifting. Our members on the frontline of retail, having to cope with regular abuse, need a government that will deliver the freedom from fear they so desperately need. That is clearly not a Conservative government.
“The Tories repeatedly opposed a protection of workers law that would have provided a standalone offence for abusing or assaulting a shopworker. Today the Home Secretary boasted about recruiting an extra 20,000 police officers, but that barely covers the number of police officers had cut under their failed austerity programme. They are all smoke and mirrors, but they won’t con our members. Only Labour has the policies to tackle the crime that blights retail.”
Usdaw has also condemned the Crime and Policing Minister for his reported comments to a Conservative conference fringe meeting where it is reported that he called on the public to make citizen’s arrests in supermarkets if they saw shoplifters.
Chris Philp MP (Con, Croydon South) is reported to have told Tory activists attending the meeting organised by the think-tank Policy Exchange “…the wider public, including shop staff and security guards, do have the power of citizen’s arrest and where it’s safe to do so I would encourage that to be used.”
His comments come on the back of disturbing evidence of an epidemic of retail crime. Latest police recorded crime figures show that shoplifting has increased by a quarter in the last twelve months. Usdaw’s annual survey found that three-quarters of shopworkers were abused, threatened or assaulted and a third of those incidents were triggered by theft from shops, along with Co-op Food discovering through a Freedom of Information request that police failed to respond to 71 per cent of reported serious retail crimes.
“This kind of ‘DIY policing’ is dangerous and irresponsible. The Minister needs to rethink his strategy, invest in putting more police on the beat and introduce a standalone offence for assaulting a shopworker, like they have in Scotland. This week we joined with retail employers in calling for action to tackle growing retail crime, but this passing of responsibility to shopworkers and shoppers is most certainly not the answer,” Lillis said on Tuesday (3).
“We are even more alarmed that he suggests the public should be performing citizen’s arrests in stores. Our members suffered first-hand when the public tried to police each other on Covid rules, with fights breaking out in aisles and shopworkers refereeing arguments between customers. We do not want to see a return to that.
“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. There must be better coordination to ensure that government, retail employers, police and the courts work together to help protect shopworkers, giving them the protection they deserve. It is clear to us that only Labour has the policies to help give our members freedom from fear.”