Retail trade union Usdaw is deeply concerned by police recorded crime statistics showing that in the 12 months to December 2022 there was significant increases in shoplifting across all constabulary areas in the East of England. Across the whole of England and Wales there has been a persistent upward trend since the pandemic, which continued with a 23% increase last year.
The Office for National Statistics released figures showing a 19% increase in shoplifting incidents by the end of 2022 across the East of England and by constabulary area as follows:
- Bedfordshire +6%
- Cambridgeshire +37%
- Essex +19%
- Hertfordshire +8%
- Norfolk +33%
- Suffolk +30%
Usdaw’s latest annual survey of over 7,500 shopworkers found that 31% of incidents of violence, threats and abuse related to shoplifting in 2022, which is not only higher than 2019 but also more than double that of 2016.
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.
“The increases in shoplifting across the East of England shows the effect 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. The cost of living crisis is also a factor and theft from shops in itself contributes to rising prices as retailers try to recover losses.
“Our annual survey found that three-quarters of retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Theft from shops was the trigger for nearly a third of these incidents last year. Particularly concerning is that just over half of those who did the survey said they were not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference.
“Faced with such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse, and with many shopworkers’ lacking 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.”