Age challenges spark shop abuse

Threats and verbal abuse against shop workers are on the rise – and a significant proportion of incidents are connected to age-restricted sales.

Preliminary results for shopworkers’ union Usdaw’s latest survey of retail crime, from July to September 2010, found there had been a “significant increase” in threats and abuse, reports of verbal abuse had risen to 70% from 62% the year before, and 6% of workers reported physical assaults – the same number as last year.

Speaking at the Association of Convenience Stores’ crime prevention forum last week, Usdaw’s Doug Russell said abuse against shop staff had been on a downward trend until 2009 – but seemed to be rising again this year.

He said: “Verbal abuse is a far more common problem [than physical abuse] and has a serious effect on individuals. Nearly half of those verbal incidents were associated with age-restricted sales.”?The ACS has set up a reward fund to help catch people who commit violent crime against retailers. People who call Crimestoppers with information that leads to a conviction in cases of serious violent crime in shops could collect a reward of up to £50,000.

The fund has been provided by ACS members, and is part of a commitment to raise community awareness of the violence shop workers experience.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Serious incidents against retailers must never go unpunished. We are proud to launch this reward scheme. We hope it will never have to be used, but if it does, the industry will stand together and help to bring the perpetrator to justice.”?Home Office minister James Broken-shire, who spoke at the forum, said: “Retail staff deserve to work in a safe environment. We recognise the cost and disruption crime causes business and we know retailers are already doing their bit to help reduce crime.

This initiative is a great example of an industry pulling together in partnership with the police and the voluntary sector to make a difference.”

Grocery benevolent charity Caravan has launched a helpline for shop workers who are victims of violent crime. The free helpline, 08088 02 11 22, also offers advice on welfare issues and other problems.