Pandemic blamed as assaults against shop staff skyrocket

Store chiefs have warned that abuse aimed at shop workers during Covid has become “normalised”. It follows a survey that showed attacks doubled during the three years of the pandemic. The British Retail Consortium and union chiefs claim aggression linked to social distancing and other Covid curbs has become every day on the high street.

Its annual crime survey found the number of attacks on store staff each day was 450 in the financial year 2019-20, compared with 867 in 2021-22.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickenson called for tougher action from the police and courts to stop the menace destroying lives and costing £1.76billion a year.

She said: “The pandemic has normalised appalling levels of violent and abusive behaviour against retail workers. While a confrontation may be over in minutes, for many victims, their families and colleagues, the physical and emotional impact can last a lifetime.

“Surely everyone deserves the right to go to work without fear.”

The Daily Express has been at the forefront of a campaign to crack down on the thugs who ruin the lives of ordinary workers.

Jarnail Singh Atwal, 67, caught a shoplifter red-handed at his off-licence in Chaddesden, Derby, on February 17.

However, he was left “disgusted” after police told him to release the suspect owing to the threat to customers also trapped inside his shop.

Derbyshire Police said they will check CCTV to catch the thug.

Usdaw boss Paddy Lillis said: “It is deeply disturbing that the level of incidents faced by retail workers is higher than before the pandemic.

“Violence is not an acceptable part of the job.”

Last year, the BRC and its partners secured better legal protection but the Home Office has no way of tracking its impact.

Retail Trust boss Chris Brook-Carter said the survey reflects what it is hearing. He said: “Thousands of people are telling us they are being shouted at, spat on, threatened and hit at work. They are very anxious.”

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