Call for tougher sentences as retail crime surges
Retail bosses have called for tougher sentences for crooks who carry out violent attacks on shop workers.
Muntazir Dipoti, the national vice-president of the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN), said an increase in assaults on retail staff had left some of them afraid to return to work.
He was a guest at an event held by Mike Wood, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Dudley South, who is campaigning for stronger sentences for those who are found guilty of retail crime.
Speaking at the meeting at a shop in Kingswinford, Mr Dipoti said: "The increasing use of violence is having an impact on retailers that is more than just the financial effect. The psychological effect can leave retailers and their staff afraid to go back to work.
"No one should be subjected to physical or verbal abuse at their place of work but in too many cases those who attack retailers are given lenient sentences by judges who do not follow the sentencing guidelines."
The answer, Mr Dipoti concluded was "not to abolish short sentences but to ensure that those who commit the crime face the consequences of their actions".
NFRN West Midlands president Julia Bywater also spoke at the event, calling for more emphasis to be placed on community policing.
"The closing of local police stations and the consolidation of officers into central hubs is leaving local retailers feeling isolated without police back up when there is an incident in their store," she said.
She added: "Local neighbourhood teams are great but a lack of continuity in the team membership is not helping to build relationships between the police and local communities."
Mr Wood said: "Retail crime is particularly damaging to small and independent retailer, who sit at the heart of our community.
"Every item stolen threatens the survival of these crucial local facilities and appropriate sentences must be used against those that perpetrate such crimes."
Violence against shop workers has increased by a quarter over the past year, according to research by the trade union Usdaw, while 42 per cent of shop workers have never seen a patrolling police officer inside their shops.
The British Retail Consortium has launched a retail manifesto calling on the next government to safeguard retail staff by bringing forward legislation to protect them from increasing attacks in the workplace.