Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is deeply concerned by today’s police recorded crime statistics showing that in the 12 months to March 2022 there was a 21% increase in shoplifting over the previous year. While there has been an 11% decrease over the last decade, today’s increase is a worrying reversal of the recent downward trend.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says: “Shoplifting is not a victimless crime, theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers. Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers.

“Today’s reported 21% increase in shoplifting may well be a consequence of Covid restrictions being lifted in stores last year. Social distancing and limiting the number of customers in stores does make life more difficult for shoplifters, so the return to normal will have an impact. We want to see action to ensure this reversal of a downward trend does not continue.

“We are aware that the cost of living crisis may also lead to more shoplifting. However, the answer to the squeeze on household budgets is not to turn a blind eye to theft from shops, which in itself contributes to rising prices as retailers try to recover losses. The Government must take immediate steps to help people who are struggling to make ends meet, with a new deal for workers on pay and employment rights, a reduction in VAT and an uprating of in-work benefits in line with inflation.”

“Our annual survey found that 9 in 10 retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Theft from shops was the trigger for nearly a quarter of these incidents last year. Particularly concerning is that nearly two-thirds said they were not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference. As such, it is likely that today’s figures are likely to significantly underestimate the scale of the problem.

“Faced with such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse, and with shopworkers’ almost complete lack of confidence in the ability of the system to give them the protection they need, much more needs to be done. The Government must provide the coordination needed to ensure that retail employers, police and the courts work together to make stores safe places for our members to work and for customers to shop.”

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