Written evidence submitted by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (VTR0032)
- The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Home Affairs inquiry into violence and abuse toward retail workers.
- The APCC is a member of the National Retail Crime Steering Group and represents all 43 Police and Crime Commissioners and equivalents.
- In April 2020, the APCC established a Retail and Business Crime Portfolio, chaired by Katy Bourne PCC. The portfolio was established in response to the Government’s Call for Evidence on violence against shop workers.
- The Retail and Business Crime Portfolio’s objectives is to:
- Seek better and more efficient ways to report crime/incidents into police and address the under-reporting aspect of retail crime.
- Improve evidence to capture and exchange data for improved investigation outcomes.
- To raise awareness and seek to combat violence and abuse against shop workers.
- To promote and share ‘good practice’ amongst PCCs and the wider partnerships
- To understand the expectation of business crime victims and ensure victims are receiving adequate support.
- Prioritising prevention and enabling businesses to protect themselves from a variety of retail crime types.
- Many Police and Crime Commissioners have strategies in their Police and Crime Plans to support businesses and retailers against criminality. Including investment in partnerships, support services, and crime prevention initiatives.
The police response to incidents of abuse and violence towards retail workers
- For policing to adequately respond to violence and abuse, as well as wider retail crime, policing and businesses together must address the issues surrounding under-reporting.
- National industry organisations have overwhelmingly evidenced a rise in violence against shop workers in recent years including:
- British Retail Consortium Crime Survey 2020 – 424 violent or abusive incidents per day (154,000 a year).
- Association of Convenience Stores 2020 Survey – estimated 50,338 incidents of violence against staff in local shops in a year.
- USDAW’s Freedom from Fear report has shown that more than 280 retail staff are violently attacked every single day.
- The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that in the year to March 2019 there were 694,000 incidents of violence experienced at work by adults in employment.
- Unfortunately, policing does not record vast quantities of these incidents due to the majority going un-reported in the first place.
- PCC Katy Bourne established the Safer Sussex Business Partnership in February 2020. In Sussex, the data shows that violence against shop workers has increased by 16% in the past year. The largest proportion of these incidents are violence without injury (62% of reported incidents), which has increased by 17%. Sussex Police and PCC Bourne have commissioned a deep dive into violence against shop workers – similar to that commissioned in Hampshire and they await the results of the internal review.
- In Autumn 2020, a survey of small and independent retailers in Sussex was carried out under the umbrella of the Safer Sussex Business Partnership.
- Sussex Police have launched a pilot ‘one-touch’ reporting process that feeds reports of crime directly into police systems and simultaneously shares with accredited Business Crime Reduction Partnerships. Once this pilot has completed, PCC Bourne is willing to share the analysis with the Home Affairs Committee if desired.
Barriers to justice for victims of retail abuse and violence
- As stated earlier in this document, under-reporting and inaccurate data is a significant challenge to analysing and responding to violence and abuse, and therefore supporting victims. For every crime that goes un-reported, there has been a victim that may not have been supported.
- Business crime is often seen as a ‘victimless’ crime or perceived as a crime against the businesses, rather than against an individual. Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales are responsible for commissioning victims’ services and ensuring the victims’ needs are supported to help them cope and recover from their experiences.
- During a meeting of the Safer Sussex Business Partnership, which includes representatives from a large variety of retail establishments across Sussex, analysis revealed that substantial under-reporting continues to exist with an estimated less than 10% of all retail crime incidents being reported to Sussex Police during the previous 12-months. In one incidence, a large retailer reported that only 4% of all crime incidents were report to police.
- It was recognised that there are too many barriers to reporting crime for businesses – including the time spent reporting crimes, and businesses and staff lacking confidence that there will be a resolution either through policing or the justice system.
- These barriers mean that policing does not have a clear picture of business crime levels in the county and therefore not able to respond to the demand accurately. Analysis with other force areas in England and Wales reveal this is a national trend.
- By making it easier for businesses to report all crime incidents, including violence and abuse, policing can work to build more robust cases against violent and prolific offenders and protect our retail community.
- Not only is there a need to simplify the process for reporting and therefore responding to violence and abuse against shop workers, but both businesses and policing need to sign post victims of violence and abuse to support that is available. The APCC has been working with the National Retail Crime Steering Group and the Home Office in reviewing how best to cater for victims and ensuring a victim is adequately signposted for support and advice.
Whether a new aggravated offence is required
- Police and Crime Commissioners are hearing about rises in violence and abuse against shop workers, with particular incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to emergency service workers, shop workers have been on the frontline during the pandemic ensuring communities have essential supplies. Violence against shop workers must be taken seriously. The APCC is open to working with the Government and partners in exploring whether a new aggravated offence is required.
- When a retail worker becomes a victim of violence and abuse, it is largely unique to other forms of violence due to the proximity of where they are – the incident has happened in their workplace where spend the majority of their working life to make a living and provide for themselves. In many instances, for smaller and independent retailers, violence and abuse against them in their store also takes place in their home from which they cannot escape.
- PCC Bourne and the APCC led the #KeepingChristmasKind campaign to highlight the need to show respect to retail workers over the Christmas period 2020 and reduce verbal abuse and physical violence towards retail staff. The national campaign was supported by the Crime and Policing Minister, the USDAWs, the Co-Op and many other partners.
- With the majority of PCCs supporting the campaign, a media reach of over four million people was achieved and the campaign featured on over 42 PCC and partner websites during the week long duration. Due to its success, this campaign may be replicated again with further support nationally, through the ‘Be Kind’ campaign which was proposed through recent National Retail Crime Steering Group.
Katy Bourne OBE
Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex
APCC Lead for the Retail and Business Crime Portfolio