Police Forces Not Treating Violent Assaults on Staff as Blue-Light Priority, Say Retailers

A coalition of retail representatives has written to police and crime commissioners in England and Wales demanding they make it easier to report shoplifting.
Police Forces Not Treating Violent Assaults on Staff as Blue-Light Priority, Say Retailers
A sign warning shoplifters, outside a branch of Boots the chemist in west London on Sept. 5, 2023. (Chris Summers/The Epoch Times)
Chris Summers

Police forces are not treating violent shoplifting assaults as a blue-light priority as offenders have already fled, according to an industry coalition.

A coalition made up of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the British Independent Retail Association, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Federation of Independent Retailers and the shopworkers’ union Usdaw has written a letter to police and crime commissioners in England and Wales demanding action.

The letter says: “We often see scenarios where violence against shopworkers is not responded to by the police because incidents do not meet forces’ threat, harm and risk criteria as offenders have left the premises after committing an offence."

“In the vast majority, if not all, of retail businesses there will be CCTV footage available to support police lines of inquiry into violent incidents. Therefore, we would like to see the proactive collection of evidence prioritised by police forces,” the letter added.

Last week Richard Walker, executive chairman of Iceland Foods, said three of his staff had been left HIV positive after being attacked with infected needles by shoplifters.
In July a survey conducted by the British Retail Consortium found shoplifting was up 26 percent across ten of Britain's biggest cities and the phenomenon of "grab and go" appears to have been imported from the United States.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The unprecedented levels of shop theft being faced by retailers cannot be allowed to continue. We have set out a three-pronged approach for police forces across the UK to adopt and make it clear that they are committed to tackling the problem."

'Criminal Gangs Repeatedly Targeting Retailers'

He said: “Theft and abuse are a blight on communities, with addicts and criminal gangs repeatedly targeting hardworking retailers and their colleagues. These are not victimless crimes, and they must be investigated to bring the most prolific offenders to justice.”
The coalition made three requests of the police in the letter:
  • To prioritise gathering evidence related to violent attacks.
  • To make it easier for retailers to report crime and submit evidence.
  • To identify the most prolific offenders, like forces in Nottinghamshire and Sussex who focus on collecting data on the worst shoplifters.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman and policing minister Chris Philp both recently called on police to take a tougher line on shoplifting.
Last month Andrew Goodacre, CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association, told The Epoch Times shoplifters were increasingly "emboldened" and were feeding a black market in everything from cheese to luxury goods.
In a statement Katy Bourne, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners lead for business and retail crime, told retailers they were "firmly on your side" and said, "We are working with police, retailers and government at a national level to improve the police response."

Crime Commissioner Understands Retailers' 'Frustration'

Ms. Bourne, who is the police and crime commissioner in Sussex, said: “I completely understand the sectors’ frustration and their concerns for their members. I’ve seen for myself the fear, the harm and the damage that too many shop staff and retailers are experiencing."

“From the many businesses I have met, it is sadly evident that, too often, the policing response they have received, assuming they got one, is not what they expect. However, we also cannot overlook the fact that police forces face a huge daily demand on their finite resources so they will have to prioritise a physical response based on the threat posed to staff and customers and the likelihood of catching up with the offender," she added.

PA Media contributed to this report.