retail crime

There’s mounting concern over growing levels of retail crime. Even before the pandemic the figures did not make for pleasant reading. And since then, the situation appears to be getting worse.

The 2020 Crime Retail Survey, produced by the British Retail Consortium and released just before the lockdown in March, revealed retail workers faced on average around 424 violent incidents every day. The report highlighted the fact that many incidents appeared to be connected to criminal gang activity: over 90% of BRC’s members cited seeing an increase in gang-related crime levels. None had seen a decrease. There’s a worrying consensus that weapons continue to be an ever increasing threat as well. Customer theft levels continue to rise too, costing the industry over £770 million.

One particularly worrying trend is the increasing amount of violence being experienced by shop workers. In fact, it’s causing such concern that USDAW (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) currently has a petition open demanding better legislation to protect retail employees by creating a specific offence of abusing, threatening or assaulting a retail worker.

The union’s highlighting what it says has been the doubling of levels of abuse and aggressive acts since the start of the pandemic. Undoubtedly the COVID measures required in shops, and the pressure on retail workers to react if shoppers aren’t complying, has placed a considerable extra burden on them. It’s very understandable that retail employees feel more fearful than ever. There have been some truly shocking accounts of abusive behaviour that retail staff have had to face, such as this incident in Greater Manchester where a woman challenged over shoplifting attempted to run down a member of staff.

Various steps are being taken to try to address the situation

Police have been working hard to take targeted action to counter the rise in retail crime; for example, Sheffield police were deployed in anticipation of rising shoplifting levels as businesses reopened following the initial national lockdown restrictions easing. And following last year’s Call for Evidence to examine instances of violence and abuse in the retail sector, the Government is in the process of introducing steps including improved data sharing and liaison between businesses and the police, and working with the National Retail Crime Steering Group to create a best practice guide to improve processes such as reporting crimes.

Invariably though, as threat levels continue to rise and the economic downturn increases the likelihood of crime even further, retailers will want to keep reviewing what more can be done to improve security.

What can retailers do to protect themselves and their employees?

Start by reviewing core measures already in place. Check that the shop layout and lighting don’t make it easier for thieves to take high value items unnoticed. Review access control to staff-only and back room/storage areas to make sure it’s not possible for unauthorised individuals to enter them.

Check that CCTV systems and intruder alarms already in place are fully operational and haven’t fallen behind schedule with their servicing. If they don’t already, it could be worth looking into whether your systems can be adapted to connect to a central monitoring station where assistance can be called for quickly. Explore other technical options too. From body cameras to lone worker protection solutions there is a range of options that could be used in a targeted way to address security concerns.

Simple measures like signage play an important role too. As well as the deterrent value of pointing out the presence of CCTV cameras, using signs to inform the public of specific COVID restrictions in operation inside the shop can help prepare them beforehand and reduce the likelihood of objections.

Make sure employees are regularly refreshed about all of the security measures in place, and know how they should respond to potential incidents. If budget allows, the increased use of security guards could provide reassurance as well. Developing relationships with other local retailers can help, particularly in alerting each other to organised criminal gang activity in the area.  There are various initiatives in place, such as Retailers Against Crime, that facilitate sharing of this kind of information.

Please get in touch for further advice

With restrictions tightening once more, and additional flashpoints being created due to the pandemic, it’s extremely testing times for the retail sector. If you need support with improving security in your retail premises, please do contact us for an initial chat to learn more about how we can help you.