Brian Sims
Editor

Mitie calls on public to prevent rise in post-lockdown retail crime

AS THE nation takes its first steps back towards normality with lockdown restrictions steadily lifting, Mitie and independent charity Crimestoppers are now appealing to members of the public to report any information they may have about crime against local businesses, whether those businesses are shops, company premises, factories or warehouses.

The call from Mitie Security comes alongside the publication of its latest White Paper entitled ‘The Threat to Retail in a Post-COVID World’ (which has been published in partnership with Crimestoppers). The report outlines some of the biggest threats facing the retail industry in a post-COVID world and also details how the British public can help to prevent harm against local businesses and shop staff. The activity to prevent retail crime is part of Mitie’s partnership with the crime prevention charity, which is the only collaboration of its kind to date in the private security industry.

Shops and businesses play a crucial role in society. Many of their staff are designated key workers because of the essential services they provide. However, according to the Association of Convenience Stores, harm perpetrated against shop workers is on the rise. There have been over 1.2 million incidents of verbal abuse and 40,000 acts of violence against those working in convenience stores over the past year alone. More than a quarter of these cases involved weapons such as hammers, knives, axes or syringes.

As well as asking members of the public to share knowledge on retail crime, the report also identifies the key factors and wider trends that are fuelling this rise in criminal activity in retail stores. For example, with over 4,000 organised crime groups operating in the UK, such criminality affects more people and leads to more deaths than result from terrorism.

A turbulent economy and social tension, both side-effects of the recent national lockdowns, are factors that will increase the threat from organised crime groups. While the risk of terrorism remains relatively low, crowds – and particularly so those in retail environments – are a known target. Environmental design of the retail space makes certain types of attack more difficult, while human intelligence is fundamental to preventing criminality.

Free from harm

Jason Towse, managing director of business services at Mitie, explained: “The re-opening of shops, bars and restaurants is a relief for many and has already seen a sharp increase in footfall across retail spaces. However, it’s the right of anyone working in retail to do their job free from harm and without fear of abuse or violence being visited upon them. The physical and verbal abuse of people trying to serve customers is just as unacceptable as theft or fraud.”

Towse continued: “As part of bringing the UK back to some form of normality, we’re calling on the great British public to support local businesses, not just by going back to the High Street, but also by helping to stamp out crime and reporting any criminal activity anonymously through the Crimestoppers service.”

Mick Duthie, director of operations for Crimestoppers, responded: “It’s very sad to think that, at a time when we’ve all relied on retail staff even more, so many of them have encountered verbal and physical abuse on a daily basis. Retail staff should be appreciated by us all and thanked for their work, not abused.”

Issuing a plea, Duthie urged: “If you have information on anyone who has been violent or abusive towards retail staff or if you have any information on those involved in organised crime, criminal damage against a business premises or any form crime, you can contact Crimestoppers on a 100% anonymous basis. Our charity’s UK Contact Centre is open 24/7 on 0800 555 111 or you can use our simple and secure anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.”

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