Retailers call for more action to tackle crime in stores

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Crime Survey 2024 Report published recently showed that between 1st September 2022 and 31st August 2023 the number of violent or abusive incidents against retail staff rose to 1,300 from almost 870 per day the year before.

Abuse of retail staff on the rise

The study shows violent incidents against retail staff slightly decreased to 113 a day from 145 the year before. However, abuse of staff has soared to 1,190 a day, compared to 340 a day recorded in 2019/2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile incidents of customer theft rose to 16.7 million up from 8 million the year before. This has meant the cost of theft has risen above £1billion for the first time to £1.8 billion or just under £5 million a day. Additionally, retailers spent £1.2 billion on crime prevention measures, up from £720 million the previous year. This follows warnings by industry bosses last year that the level of crime within store needed to be tackled urgently.

Concerns about the level of Police response to retail crime

Although there are initiatives launched by the government and the Police to tackle retail crime reporting of incidents is low. The survey found that 55% of retailers said that the main reason for failure to report was lack of belief that anything would happen as a result, with 87% reporting this as one of the top two reasons. The other main reasons were lack of staff time (38% indicating it as a top two reason) and difficulties with the reporting system (58% as a top two reason).

The survey showed that 61% of retailers reported that the Police’s response to retail crime they experienced was poor or very poor. Only 32% said it was fair and just 6% said it was good. This has led to the BRC renewing its calls for the government to introduce a standalone offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker.

Calls for a standalone offence to protect retail workers

Creating a separate offence, the BRC said, would ensure that retail workers have the same protection under the law as they do in Scotland, where a similar offence was introduced in 2021. It would help to make retail workers feel safer in the workplace and give more data to the Police to allow them to understand the scale of the issue, and to allocate sufficient resources to deal with it.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Criminals are being given a free pass to steal goods and to abuse and assault retail colleagues. No one should have to go to work fearing for their safety. The Protection of Workers Act in Scotland already provides additional protection to retail workers, so why should our hardworking colleagues south of the border be offered less protection? It is vital that government takes action – introducing a new standalone offence for assaulting or abusing a retail worker.”

The BRC’s demands for a stand-alone law offence echo similar calls by the Co-op, which recently launched a report that the retailer had commissioned. This report, written by Emmeline Taylor, Professor of Criminology at City, University of London, set out a ten-point plan to tackle retail crime.

The Co-op’s own data shows that that it had 336,270 incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour across its 2,400 stores during 2023, a 44% increase on its 2022 figures.

Police say the Retail Crime Action Plan is working

However, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said that its Retail Crime Action Plan, commissioned by the government and launched last October, is already showing a positive impact. A NPCC review of 31 Police forces showed that on 1 December 2023, over 1,500 crimes reviewed across all retailers, Police attended 60% where violence had been used, with 16% of forces sampled reporting 100% attendance to this type of incident. Meanwhile Police attendance for a detained shoplifter was 76% with 21% of forces again showing 100% attendance.

The Co-op had also noticed some improvement in Police performance. Since the introduction of the Retail Crime Action Plan, the Police non-attendance rate had improved to 38% from 79% previously. However, the retailer suggested this was still not good enough.

Meanwhile the BRC co-chairs the National Retail Crime Steering Group with the Home Office Policing Minister which it said provides the context for regular exchanges among retailers, government and Police. Following discussions in the steering group, Project Pegasus, was launched last year.

Retailers signed up to fund specialist Police officers

This is a business and policing partnership that aims to improve the way retailers are able to share intelligence with policing, to better understand the tactics used by organised retail crime gangs and identify more offenders. To support this, a new information sharing platform and training for retailers will be developed.

Pegasus is convened by Katy Bourne OBE, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner’s Lead for Business and Retail Crime. So far 13 retailers have pledged to fund a new Police team of specialist officers & analysts to work within policing in a structure called OPAL – a NPCC-led team that oversees serious organised acquisitive crime, run by North Wales Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman. UK Police forces are co-ordinating their work through the National Business Crime Centre which brings them together to tackle crimes against businesses.

The retailers that have currently signed up to Pegasus are Aldi, B&Q, Boots, Coop, John Lewis Partnership, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Next, Primark, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and TJX, which owns the TK Maxx stores in the UK. They are working with the National Business Crime Solution, a not-for-profit initiative that works with the Police and the business community to help tackle business crime and Mitie Security, the facilities security company that provides the secretariat for Pegasus.

How we can help tackle Retail Crime

While these initiatives by the Police and retailers is important, if there is to be a reduction in retail crime, there may be further steps that retailers can take to protect their stock and their staff. We offer a range of security and protection solutions that could help retailers. These include:

Motorola body-worn cameras

For front-line customer service staff, we offer the lightweight Motorola VT100 body-worn camera, which is the type rolled out across Co-op stores. The camera is a small, unobtrusive device which has proven to deter public aggression towards workers while capturing evidential footage when necessary.

It can be used by any customer-facing staff who may find themselves in challenging situations or confrontational incidents with the public. At a quick touch of a button, they can ensure that the camera is capturing the abusive or violent events.

Additionally, if shop owners have employed security guards to protect their retail space, we can offer the more robust Motorola Solutions VB400 body-worn camera. Security professionals may also be subject to abuse from customers or members of the public and feel unsafe.

This body-worn camera is built with a toughened exterior that has been tested to military standards. The large central button and robust side switch are positioned for easy operation, even when wearing gloves.

We offer advanced CCTV

We offer the Avigilon Alta 100% cloud-based CCTV solution combined with Avigilon Ava cameras as well as the Avigilon Unity suite of video management software and CCTV camera options.  Both are advanced solutions that use machine-learning to provide powerful, but simple to operate, CCTV systems. This means you can easily search for people, have watch lists set up using facial recognition and be alerted about unusual activity.

Our engineers and system designers specialise in Avigilon and our expertise means we can provide advice on the best cameras to use and the ideal locations for cameras. Both the Avigilon solutions are scalable and the surveillance platforms can be accessed remotely so whatever the size of your project we can support you.

Meanwhile the Motorola body-worn cameras can be integrated into your Avigilon CCTV system allowing security personnel to respond quickly when incidents occur.

Added protection from security fog

For retailers their stock is vital for the success of their business. If you have a burglary or attempted break-in you could be faced with thousands of pounds worth of losses, your assets will need replacing and there could be high repair costs. At the same time there will be a lot of time spent with Police and your insurance company dealing with the aftermath of the incident.

Density Fog Generators provide active protection to retailers allowing you, or those managing your security, to take instant action when an intruder gets into your shop. The generators create thick fog within seconds that will stop intruders in their tracks so they are unable to get further inside your property to approach your stock. Instead, their only option will be to escape outside which will save you money from further attempts to find a point of entry and prevent them reaching your goods.

Density has developed a range of fog generators that will operate in all areas of the retail sector from small convenience stores to large supermarkets and shopping malls.

How we can help

As noted in previous blogs the high levels of verbal and physical abuse suffered by retail staff are a worrying trend and has combined with growing concern about shoplifting when managers in the sector still feel Police forces are not prioritising these types of crime.

We can support retail businesses across south west England and south Wales with crime prevention and security measures that can help make staff feel safer and protect shop goods. If you would like to know more about all of our security solutions, please contact us.