The Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner has today published an open letter to MPs calling for their support on introducing tougher laws to ensure shop workers are better protected from abuse.
Waheed Saleem’s letter – on the rising trends in the abuse of shop workers – calls for MPs to back a Bill by Alex Norris MP. The Bill hopes to toughen existing laws against those who abuse shop workers in the course of their role.
The Deputy PCC’s letter follows calls from a number of trade unions to make offences such as common assault and GBH against a shop worker “aggravated”, so they carry longer sentences and larger fines.
Waheed Saleem calling for action after the level of abuse against shop workers in the West Midlands rose by a fifth in 2020. In 2019, there were 781 incidents of abuse reported to the police. In 2020, numbers rose to 934.
The local picture mirrors an upward trend across the country and suggests the Covid-19 pandemic has been a flashpoint for abuse, with customers’ frustration with queuing, limits on stock, and mandatory face mask wearing regularly being directed towards shop workers.
Some shops in the West Midlands have even advised staff not to rigidly enforce mask wearing and social distancing rules to protect against abuse.
In April an emergency chapter of the Police and Crime Plan was launched which enshrined within it that robust action should be taken against those targeting and intimidating health and retail staff.
Shop workers have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic, ensuring that people have been able to have access to essential supplies. Staff in shops often work long hours in busy and challenging conditions. This is one of the reasons the PCC ensured that prioritising reports of crimes against them should be a top concern for West Midlands Police.
Waheed Saleem said, “Shop workers deserve to work free from abuse, but we need to listen to the evidence. We need a robust deterrent against the increasing abuse shop workers face on the job. Our work prioritising at a local level and support trades unions’ campaign now needs to be backed nationally, and Alex’s Bill is the right way to do this. I urge all MPs to support this Bill, and do the right thing by our dedicated shop workers who work tirelessly for our communities.”