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Freedom From Fear

The news today that shoplifting has increased by 25% is not a surprise but is further evidence that there’s a growing issue with persistent theft from shops.

Theft from shops has also long been linked to violence and abuse against shop workers.

Over and above the issues caused by the theft itself, repeat and persistent shoplifting, which is happening across South Reading and in the Woodley and Earley areas causes staff anxiety and fear. The USDAW trade union reports that nationally, just as we’ve seen locally there are career criminals coming into stores and stealing to sell goods on. While this is of increasing concern in the same week the Justice Secretary has announced a softening of sentencing policy for ‘low-level’ crimes.

The Cooperative Party and USDAW have worked with the Coop stores to create a campaign called ‘Freedom From Fear’ to deliver improved security and a tougher response to this crime, including one of the issues which was that there is currently a £200 threshold for investigating an individual theft from a shop – which can simply mean that the same offender undertakes multiple thefts.

Last week I was delighted that the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, committed the next Labour Government to supporting this with: 13,000 more neighbourhood police with guaranteed patrols in town centres; Respect Orders to ban repeat offenders from town centres; a standalone offence for assaulting a worker serving the public and will end the £200 threshold for investigating and prosecuting shop theft.

I’m supporting USDAW’s call to sign a new House of Commons petition that seeks to protect retail workers from violence, threats and abuse by extending the Scottish protection of workers law to the rest of the UK.

The Government has repeatedly blocked that, so this petition offers a last chance before the election to take a step in the right direction.

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