Protecting Retail Workers From Abuse Threats And Violence 

Violence and theft against retailers, their security and members of the General Public in 2020 are at epidemic levels, leaving retailers frustrated and frightened in performing their day to day duties serving us the General Public.


Although our Members have seen a significant reduction in crime in there stores because of our work, we believe that the UK Goverment, Courts and Police are not doing enough to protect retail workers from the threat of abuse and physicial violence whilst doing their day to day jobs.

We would like to see the courts have the powers to sentence offenders with tougher sentences for those who choose to be violent to people working in Public places, and for the Police to take action once they are called to any incident to use their powers of arrest and treat theft as it is defined in the theft Act 1968, as we believe, we all have the right to be and feel safe in our places of work.

Catch a Thief UK and our Members have been campainging and we have witnessed a significant increase in these types of crimes, whilst also cataloguing thousands of incidents that have made news headlines across the United Kingdom.

Working with our partners, we have analysed this over the past 4 years which shows that there are many factors for the increase in these types of offences, one such as cuts to the Police forces and their lack of presence and visible patrols. Other factors included; Covid, drugs, homelessness and poverty.

In England and Wales saw that between March 2010 and March 2018 the Police lost 21,732 officers, thats a drop of 15%, according to the Home Office thats the lowest number of officers since 1981. In July 2019 our Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to recruit an extra 20,00 police officers in England and Wales by 2023.

Following the Goverments pledge to recruit an additional 20,000 Police officers by March 2023. There has been an increase in officers in the 43 Police forces in England and Wales, from 123,189 full time officers in March 2019 to 129,110 full time officers as of March 2020, thats a 4.8% increase up 5,921 new Police officers. 

As a result of the cuts to the Police the Police have adopted policies to prioritise what offences they would investigate putting retail theft at the bottom of their list, with many police forces only investigating theft (shoplifting) from retail outlets if the amount of goods stolen was in the value of £200 and over, with many people believing this gives thieves the green light to steal.

According to the British Retail Consortiums (BRC) Retail Crime Survey, published on their website on the March 5th 2020, retailers spent a record £1.2 billion on crime prevention and the loss because of crime rose to £1.0 billion, which includes over £770 million from customer theft, this makes the tolal cost of crime and crime prevention to £2.2 billion an increase of 16% from the previous year (1.9 billion).

Below is a video that Catch a Thief UK have put togther in support of the Petition, it contains over 100 incidents of violence towards retailers and other people that serve us in the public domain. The video contains snippets of news headlines that have reported on this crisis over the past 4 months.

Story by Farrah McNutt Catch a Thief UK 30 December 2020

Violence Against Retail Workers

The BRC has been lobbying Parliament to introduce legislation that would make assaults on retail staff a specific criminal offence, combined with calls for the Police in the UK to prioritise retail crime and to improve their responce to incidents. 


Chief Executive OBE Helen Dickinson of the BRC: said,

"over 400 retail workers are subjected to violence or abuse in the workplace every day. These are not just statistics; these are real people who work hard for millions of customers every day. From abuse to threats, to violence, thoes affected carry these experiences with them for a lifetime. The Government must help put an end to the scourge of retail crime. This means a stronger Police response to criminal incidents, and new legislation to introduce tougher sentencese for those who assault retail workers".


Paddy Lillis, General Secretary of Usdaw: said,
“Life on the shop floor can be tough for many shopworkers, and there is still a lot to do to protect them. We launched our Freedom from Fear Campaign in the face of growing concerns amongst retail staff about violence, threats and abuse. The campaign works with employers to promote respect and make shops safer for staff.

“It is high time for the Government to act by providing proper penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone law that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and, most importantly, criminals.”

John Campion, West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner:
“No one should have to feel worried about going to work. The increased violence and abuse these retail workers are facing should not be tolerated and more needs to be done."

“I hope to see the Government respond positively to the calls for this crime to be recognised as a specific criminal offence. On a local level, I will continue to work with the police and partners to ensure the appropriate measures and resources are in place to prevent incidents like this from happening.”

Dr. Emmeline Taylor, Director of Research, Department of Sociology at City, University of London: said,
“Record levels of theft, record levels of expenditure on crime control measures, and indications that the severity and frequency of violence against shop workers continues to increase. Government action is urgently needed to reverse the impact that ten years of austerity has had on the retail industry and our communities.”

“No level of violence is acceptable and particularly against people who are just going about their job. Yet again the industry reports a shocking rate of incidents of violence against shop workers.”

In February 2020 Boris Johnson said that "we should not tolerate crimes of violence against shop workers". The BRC reports that 70% of retailers surveyed said that the Police response to incidents was 'poor' or 'very poor'.

A public petition was launched on 22 June 2020 by Paddy Lillis with a deadline of the 24 January 2021 to reach 100,000 signatuars for Parliament to debate in enacting legislation to protect retail workers. This legislation must create a specific offence of abusing, threatening or assaulting a retail worker. The offence must carry a penalty that acts as a deterrent and makes clear that abuse of retail workers is unacceptable.

Catch a Thief UK are pleased to announce that the petition has now passed its target of 100,00 signatuars and now stands at 102,738, which means that this can now be debated in Parliament.


You can see the petition here:

Have you experienced violence or abuse working in retail? Do you know someone who has?

A group of MPs called the Home Affairs Committee is investigating violence and abuse towards retail workers and would like to hear about your experiences.

You can share your experiences here:

You can find out more about the Committee's work on this issue here:

They’d like to hear from you by 15 January. Your answers will help them to understand the issues people are facing and what questions MPs need to ask the Government.

They might publish some or all of your responses, or read them out when they’re asking questions in a public Committee meeting or in the House of Commons. So please don’t share any personal information that you don’t want to be public.

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter @CommonsHomeAffs or on their website:

What is the Home Affairs Committee?

The Home Affairs Committee looks at and questions how the Government Department for Home Affairs is run, spends money, decides on its policies. It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:

When will the petition I signed be debated?

The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee will consider this petition for a debate in the new year. They will let you know as soon as this happens.