Image source, EPA
Staff at Tesco stores are to be offered body cameras amid a rise in violent attacks, the supermarket’s chief executive has said.
The company has seen physical assaults increase by a third since last year.
It mirrors findings by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) published earlier this year, which found abuse against retail staff had almost doubled compared to pre-Covid levels.
Similar action has already been taken by Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Co-op.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Tesco boss Ken Murphy called for tougher laws targeting offenders.
He noted changes had been made to make attacking a shop worker an aggravating factor in convictions, but wants “abuse or violence towards retail workers” to be made an offence in itself.
Mr Murphy called for the change to bring England and Wales in line with Scotland, where the Protection of Worker’s Bill makes it an offence to assault, threaten or abuse retail staff.
He also called for the supermarket to have the right to be kept informed about how a case proceeds.
“Crime is a scourge on society, and an insult to shoppers and retail workers. It is time we put an end to it,” he added, saying the abuse suffered was “heartbreaking”.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Policing Minister Chris Philp said police forces should start to look at every crime where there is CCTV footage, even in instances where the theft is of goods worth less than £200.
“It should not be tolerated at any level – I expect a zero tolerance approach to this criminality,” he said.
In the BRC’s Crime Survey published in March, it recorded more than 850 daily incidents in 2021/22, a steep rise from pre-Covid level of 450 a day in 2019/20.
These incidents included racial and sexual abuse, something it said was having a “huge emotional and physical impact on people”.
The trade association, which represents more than 200 retailers in the UK, said the cost of retail crime was £1.76bn in 2021/22, with £953m lost to customer theft, and £715m spent on prevention.
“The pandemic has normalised appalling levels of violent and abusive behaviour against retail workers,” said Helen Dickinson, the group’s chief executive.
In July, food retailer Co-op warned that some communities could become “no-go” areas for the company due to the rising levels of crime, which it said had increased by more than a third in the past year.
Media caption, This suspected shoplifter got extremely abusive with a shop security guard
It cited a Freedom of Information request which suggested many police forces were not prioritising retail crime, with 71% of serious retail crime not responded to by police.
Waitrose has said an increase in shoplifting has come from a proliferation of steal-to-order gangs.
The supermarket is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, which has said staff in John Lewis stores have also been given bodycams and de-escalation training to deal with a rise in incidents.
Sainsbury’s has used body-worn cameras since 2018, a policy it was one of “a number of security measures” to support customer and colleague safety.
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