Today we have responded to Government plans to deal with threats and violence towards shop workers by saying ‘more still needs to be done’.
We have reflected on the findings of a consultation entitled ‘Call for Evidence – Violence and Abuse Towards Shop Staff’ after just last week launching a joint campaign with other retailers lobbying for more to be done to protect those ensuring communities have access to vital food and essentials.
Some of the actions to arise from the report include:
· Development of best practice guide to help staff report crimes and ensure they have the correct support
· Urging police forces and police and crime commissioners to reach out to retailers to understand the scale of the problem locally
· Urging police forces to set out rules that the theft of goods up to £200 should be prosecuted as a criminal offence
Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-op Chief Executive, said: “While we welcome these positive steps by the Government, we still think more could and should be done to protect our store colleagues and all shop workers from threats and physical abuse.
“We continue to believe that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable, and we will not tolerate any kind of abuse to our colleagues and we again urge the Government to work harder to recognise the people it itself has recognised as being of vital importance to our daily lives.
“Their amazing contribution now needs to be recognised by a change in the law so anyone who takes the decision to cross the line with our colleagues knows that retail crime is taken seriously.
“We are aware that this is not just a Central England Co-op problem, it is an industry-wide problem, and this is why we will continue to work closely with other co-operatives and retailers to campaign for change.”
We are also encouraging customers and members to pledge their support for more Government action by signing an online petition set up by the Co-operative Party.
People can sign it here: https://party.coop/retailviolencebill
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman, said: “Warm words and working groups are not enough; we need tougher penalties for attacks on shopworkers and more police resource to stamp out violence.
“We are committed to working through the National Retail Crime Steering Group to make sure retailers and shopworkers are equipped to report every incident of crime to police and to send a clear message that violence and abuse is not part of the job.”
The publication of this report by the Government comes just days after Central England Co-op revealed that hundreds of MPs from across the country had backed its campaign calling for better protection for colleagues.
Over 200 parliamentarians from across the political divide pledged to support efforts to keep staff and customers safe and that any type of crime from burglaries to violence and aggression towards staff would ‘not be tolerated’ during these uncertain times.
New figures recently showed assaults jumped by 100%, threats and intimidation by 25% and verbal abuse by 175% since the start of the year, and since the lockdown was introduced, there have been over 100 incidents related directly to people using COVID-19 as a threat.
Some examples of incidents have included multiple threats by customers to cough on colleagues and ‘give them Coronavirus’ and further threats of assaults because people have had to queue to enter stores, social distance or simply because they do not have a specific product.