Po­lice pledge abuse ac­tion

West Sussex County Times - - Front Page - Gina Stainer

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

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