A survey published by the British Retail Consortium in March found that assaults on shopworkers have risen by 9% in the last year, however, this has been further exacerbated by COVID-19 product shortages, strict social distancing measures and now the enforcement of wearing masks in stores.
Anne Martin, who has worked as a store manager for Co-op for the past 20 years, said: “We have had staff quit because they just couldn’t cope with the fear of a knife being used against them. Although shoplifting has decreased because we are manning our door at this time, shoplifters have become more desperate because they can’t get easy access to our stock, so we are more likely to be threatened and abused.
“We have had incidents where shoplifters have used the two-metre rule to steal from us. We have put spirits on the counter, stepped back and they have just grabbed it and run.
“We also want to enforce the wearing of masks because it is for customer and colleague safety, but we just can’t always police this because we get so much abuse if we try to reason with people. We are just doing our jobs and the rules in place are not to be difficult, it’s to protect you and us.”
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners National Lead for Business Crime, Katy Bourne, said: “This pandemic has shown how important our local businesses and their staff are to our communities. Intimidation, verbal abuse and violence of any kind against shopworkers cannot be tolerated.”
From April 1 2019 to March 31 2020, there were 483 reports of violence against shopworkers made to Sussex Police, an increase of 32% over the previous year.
BRC: Annual crime survey
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner: Assaults on shop workers rise as shoplifters become ‘desperate’