Police pledge abuse action
Shopworkers have been subjected to increasing levels of physical and verbal abuse and intimidation, Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has heard.
Shopworkers in Sussex have been subjected to physical assaults, verbal abuse and intimidation, Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has heard.
She called a meeting to discuss the concerns raised with her by members of the business community.
The meeting involved members of the Safer Sussex Business Partnership, which includes senior officers from Sussex Police, business crime experts, representatives from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op as well as smaller, local stores, business crime reduction partnerships and Mitie.
From April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, there were 483 reports of violence against a shopworker made to Sussex Police, an increase of 32 per cent (156 reports) over the previous year.
However, Mrs Bourne heard from business owners that this type of crime is still vastly under-reported and is having huge impacts on victims and wider community.
The meeting heard local stores across the county are experiencing ‘horrific rises’ in verbal abuse and violence against their staff, exacerbated by the current pandemic which has led to product shortages and strict social distancing measures.
Danny Molloy, Tesco area manager for Sussex and Kent, said:“Wehaveseenanincrease in colleagues assaulted and spat at recently. The prolific offenders causing problems for us before have just got worse. As lockdown loosens, we are also expecting to see an increase in shoplifting and with that will come even more violence and threatening behaviour. As a local retailer we will be looking to share our data more widely and report more incidents to the police, who I have been reassured will take action.”
One large chain retailer has experienced more than 7,000 crimes in just the last three months, including assaults on their staff and security. Many of these crimes have been driven by homelessness, local drug supply and county lines, the meeting was told.
Mrs Bourne said the figures were ‘shocking’. “This pandemic has shown how important our local businesses and their staff are to our communities. Intimidation, verbal abuse and violence of any kind against shopworkers cannot be tolerated,” she said.
“We have developed a unique partnership, recognising that business crime matters and making best use of each other’s expertise. I want to assure all business owners and staff that their concerns are being listened to and will be robustly and positively acted upon.
“Sussex Police is expanding, meaning we now have more boots on the ground gathering vital intelligence, working with partners and targeting prolific offenders.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne