'Tied up with cable ties' and 'stabbing threats': Retail staff reveal violence they face in store

ITV News Consumer Affairs Editor Chris Choi and Consumer Affairs Producer Siham Ali report on the distressing violence and intimidation faced by shop workers in their latest 'Shops and Robbers' report 

For a long time now, shop workers have been at the receiving end of violence, intimidation, and aggression while trying to do their job. 

But as the shoplifting crisis spirals so does the threat they face - but what's being done about it?

New figures given to ITV News by the shop workers union USDAW show half of retail staff have no confidence that reporting violent abuse to the police will make a difference. 

Yasmin Mohamed, a London store manager tells us about the torrent of abuse she receives on a daily basis.

She said: "We're here to earn a living not to experience the threat we have to go through. The abuse whether it's physical or emotional, none of us deserve this." 

More than once Yasmin has had to take the law into her own hands in an attempt to stop thieves running off with goods. On one occasion she was left with a hand injury.

 "This needs to stop and something needs to change," says store manager Yasmin Mohamed

"The police response is not as great as it should be. When the police come it feels as if the retail workers are not the priority.

"It's very sad we have to experience this day in and day out. This needs to stop and something needs to change," she told us.

According to data published earlier this month by the Co-op there have been almost 300,000 incidents of shoplifting, abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour recorded by the chain - up by 43% from last year.

It says police failed to show-up in almost 76% of incidents. 

One supermarket security officer who has requested anonymity told us just how severe it can get on the shop floor.

"Somebody attempted to run me over, I've been threatened with stabbing and another one threatened to follow me home," they said.  

Policing Minister Chris Philp urged members of the public to consider intervening and making their own citizens arrests.

But the security officer we interviewed plainly states: "I think it's bad advice because I know what it's like. 

"I am trained so I know how to hold somebody safely, members of the public are not trained so can get themselves in danger." 

Trade groups in the retail sector say encouraging staff and shoppers to challenge thieves is dangerous and irresponsible. 

We approached the policing minister with our own footage and questioned how he could justify that advice.

ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi questions Policing Minister Chris Philp on advising the public to make citizens arrests during incidents in shops

Mr Philp said: "I think if store staff particularly security staff encounter someone who is shoplifting and if they're trained and it's safe then they should intervene," he told us.

When we asked how people could judge whether it's safe or not he said: "it's for individuals to make their own judgement." 

In Derbyshire a shop manager was tied up with cable ties by masked men who went on to raid her village shop. 

Following the incident in 2017 two men were charged with robbery. At court the case again one of the men was dropped, however, the second man pleaded guilty and, in August 2018, he was jailed for 72 months.

"They tied up my hands and my feet and left me there for five minutes and then jumped over and nicked all the stock.

"People think you just work in a shop and it's not dangerous - but it is, it does get dangerous." she said.

Store manager Abbie tells ITV News "stock can be replaced but your life can't,"

Her advice to those thinking of challenging thieves? "Never do it, until you experience trauma like this do not go back at them, let them take whatever. Stock can be replaced but your life can't," she says. 

In a bid to tackle shoplifting the government announced a new Retail Crime Action Plan promising  stronger police response. 

We've been told the Home Office will now monitor its implementation every three months. 

Shop theft costs almost a billion pounds a year - but the highest price is perhaps being paid by staff suffering threats, abuse and violence.

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