Staff at Tesco have been offered body-worn cameras in a bid to deter violent offending towards employees at the supermarket.
Tesco’s chief executive Ken Murphy said that physical assaults were up by a third on this time last year, following on from British Retail Consortium data which shows instances of violence and abuse have more than doubled since 2019-20.
He said the chain has “rolled out body-worn cameras for colleagues that need them in order to deter offenders” and has also spent “£44 million over the last four years on security measures such as door access systems, protection screens and digital radios”.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Murphy said: “For these colleagues, their families, and all of us who know someone who works in retail, it’s heartbreaking… I want those who break the law in our stores brought to book.”
Mr Murphy said the Government should make abuse or violence towards retail workers an offence in itself, as it already is in Scotland.
“When someone is picked up for committing a crime in a store, the business should have a right to know how the case is proceeding – which does not happen at the moment,” he added. “This would help us to spot patterns and provide reassurance that justice is being done.
“Gangs take advantage of the fact we do not share enough information. We’ll only be able to stop these thugs if we work together.”
In England and Wales, attacks on shop workers can be considered an aggravating factor that leads to longer convictions under a change made last year, but it is not a specific criminal offence.
Waitrose and John Lewis last month began offering free tea and coffee for on-duty police officers, in a bid to attract more of them to their stores and dissuade criminals.
Nicki Juniper, head of security for the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Retail crime is a national problem and requires a national solution.
“Just having a police car parked outside can make people think twice about shoplifting from our branches, or becoming aggressive towards our partners [staff].”
In July, the British Retail Consortium found 850 incidents of violence and abuse against retail employees were reported each day – including racial and sexual abuse, physical assault, and threats with weapons – up from the pre-Covid high of over 450 per day.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Every time I speak with retailers, crime is getting worse. Thieves are becoming bolder, and more aggressive. Violence and abusive behaviour are on the rise.
“Many employees are facing threats with weapons, physical assault, and racial and sexual abuse.
“While these confrontations might be over in a matter of minutes, for many victims, their families and colleagues, the physical and emotional impact can last a lifetime.
“Retailers are playing their part, investing nearly £1bn into crime prevention measures in the past year alone. But more needs to be done.”