THE WEST Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has told MPs tougher laws, along with treatment for drug addicts, are needed to ensure shop workers are better protected from abuse.
Speaking at the Home Affairs Select Committee, David Jamieson said action was needed now if retailers were to be kept safe.
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 PCC was invited to provide evidence to MPs after spearheading a campaign to see shop workers better protected. He was joined by senior police officers from around the country.
Shop workers have been on the frontline during the pandemic, keeping the country fed and stocked with vital supplies as lockdown hit.
The local picture mirrors an upward trend across the country and suggests the pandemic has been a flashpoint for abuse, with customers’ frustration with queuing, limits on stock, and mandatory mask wearing regularly being directed towards retail staff.
Home Office figures suggest nearly half of all shoplifting crimes are committed by people addicted to drugs.
Shopkeeper Surinder Josan said he and his family had been abused on a number of occasions after asking a customer to wear a mask.
“The way some people treat shop workers is appalling. My family and I have been abused more than once for simply trying to ensure covid restrictions are adhered to.
“I’m grateful to Mr Jamieson for pushing for a new law to deter abuse.”
Mt Josan’s experiences and similar stories led the PCC to call for changes to the law so offences carry longer sentences and larger fines.
Mr Jamieson, said: “Early on in the Covid crisis I pledged to make protecting shop workers a priority.
“We have worked to ensure that police resources are targeted towards tackling this issue, and have been proud to support campaigns for stronger deterrents for those who abuse retail staff.
“On top of this I want to see better treatment for people addicted to illegal substances. Only when we do this will we reduce shop lifting and therefore abuse of retail staff.
“Shop workers in the West Midlands have consistently served their communities throughout this crisis and deserve to work without being abused or threatened.”