Home secretary Priti Patel on Tuesday remembered her background as a daughter of immigrants from Uganda who ran shops after arriving in the UK, and set out plans to crack down on abuse and violence by customers against workers in shops.
The plans include guidance on reporting crime, strengthening and making full use of existing laws and improving data sharing between businesses and police. The focus will be on theft of goods valued up to £200 from a shop being prosecuted as a criminal offence.
Responding to a consultation on the issue, Patel said: “As the daughter of shopkeepers, I know what a vital role they play within our communities and just how tirelessly they have worked during the coronavirus pandemic”.
“I will not tolerate violence and abuse against any shopworker and it’s right that those who commit these crimes must be caught and punished,” she said.
The majority of nearly 3,500 individuals, businesses and other organisations that engaged with the consultation believed that abuse toward shop staff had increased in recent years and a significant number said they did not report incidents to the police.
Officials said that respondents gave many examples of behaviour they faced at work; the most common being violence or abuse in the context of preventing shop theft. Other commonly cited issues included attacks, or threat of attack, involving a weapon.
Respondents said they were subjected to anti-social behaviour, typically committed by young people; organised criminal activity by gangs or groups of individuals; racial abuse; armed robberies; criminal damage; sexual harassment; spitting; biting; and, acts of violence, or threats to commit acts of violence, including use of, or threats to use, a weapon.
A large number of Asian immigrants set up shops – known as ‘Patel corner shops’ – after arriving in the UK over the decades, often facing racism. The character of the mostly family-run shops has changed over the years, with younger generations preferring other vocations.
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