Abuse against retail staff grew by a “disturbing” amount last year, according to the 2004 Annual Retail Crime Survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The ADT-sponsored survey, released today, shows that verbal abuse rose by 35% compared to 2003 and physical violence also up 14%. This has been a continuing trend since 2000.
Retailers spent £710m on crime prevention in their stores throughout 2004. Over a five-year period the sector has spent £3.58bn.
BRC director-general, Kevin Hawkins, said: “The most disturbing figure is the growing trend of verbal and physical violence experienced by retailers.
“Retail crime is not victimless; it leaves deep scars not only on business viability and retail staff, but also on the community with the significant costs of prevention often passed on to all threads of society.
“With the current culture of under-reporting of retail crime, these figures may well only be the tip of the iceberg,” he added.
John Hannett, general secretary of shopworkers’ union Usdaw, said: “These figures are very disturbing as it seems a small section of criminals and irresponsible consumers think shopworkers can be treated as physical and verbal punchbags.
“Violent offenders have to get the message that shops have a zero tolerance policy for violence and we will continue to work with retailers, police, local authorities and consumer groups to make sure every store is as secure as possible,” he said.
The BRC recently launched the ‘Stop Crime Against Retail’ campaign, calling for police to modify the system of crime reporting to encourage victims to report crimes.
The campaign also calls on the government to work with the sector to raise awareness of the real impact of crime and violence against staff in the retail sector.