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Violence and abuse against shop staff increased last year with about 1,300 incidents a day, according to an industry group.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) annual survey showed the amount lost to shoplifting in the latest year was the highest ever recorded.

The number of incidents against shop staff increased by 50% to 1,300 per day in the year to September 2023, from 870 the previous year.

Around 8,800 incidents across the year resulted in injury.

Retail staff faced a barrage of violence and abuse ranging from discrimination and sexual harassment to physical assault and threats of violence.

During the pandemic the number of incidents tripled when people took out their frustrations with the Covid safety measures on shop workers.

Incidents have remained significantly higher when compared to the pre-pandemic level.

The BRC which has thousands of associates including more than 200 major chains, surveyed a sample of retailers representing 1.1 million staff across the country.

It found customer theft doubled to 16.7 million incidents a year, which was an increase from eight million.

The cost of shoplifting is around £1.8 billion in the latest year, the highest recorded amount and the first time it’s gone over the £1 billion mark, the BRC said.

The surveyed retailers attributed the increase to the cost-of-living, changing the nature of shoplifting from one or two items to many.

Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation was at 11.1% in October 2022, during the retail crime survey year, with people seeing an increase in the cost of every day essentials.

Other retailers commented that they thought shoplifters are more prone to violence and abuse, because they know they can get away with it.

In the face of surging levels of crime, retailers spent £1.2 billion on deterrent measures such as CCTV, security officers and body worn CCTV.

Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive said: “Despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing.”

Some of the country’s biggest retailers have also been vocal about shoplifting and violence against staff.

The Co-op said there was more than 300,000 incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour in its stores last year.

The head of John Lewis said shoplifting had become an “epidemic”. The chain is among 10 of the UK’s biggest retailers participating in a police operation to reduce shoplifting, called Project Pegasus.

The companies are expected to contribute around £600,000 towards the project, which will make use of CCTV pictures and facial recognition technology to get a better understanding of shoplifting operations.

The BRC said the Government’s Retail Crime Action Plan offers some “hope” for the sector, as it includes a commitment from the police to prioritise urgently attending the scene of a shoplifting incident that has involved violence against a member of staff.

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