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Appeal for ‘Keeping Christmas Kind’

by Mark Rowe

Show some kindness to our festive frontline this Christmas. Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has started a ‘keeping Christmas kind’ campaign, saying that ‘enough is enough’ with verbal and physical abuse of shop workers. The Southern Co-op reports an 80pc rise in assaults and abuse over the last couple of months – including colleagues threatened with knives and being hospitalised after being attack by shoplifters.

She is the National Business Crime Lead for the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners (APCC). She says: “The rise in assaults and abuse against shop workers is getting out of hand. This pandemic has shown how important our local businesses and their staff are to our communities. Intimidation, verbal abuse and violence of any kind against our shop workers cannot be tolerated.

“I’m seriously concerned about the impact a Covid Christmas may have on our local stores. We have all had an incredibly challenging year but we cannot stand by and watch those who have helped keep our country going, be abused in this way.

“Please share the ‘Keeping Christmas Kind’ message and help me encourage people to stop, take a step back and rethink their behaviour.”

Steve Pelling, who has worked in retail for over 20 years, is a manager at Southern Coop in Hove, on the Sussex coast. He is taking part in the campaign with his daughter Kayleigh. He says: “I might be a store manager, but I am also a father and, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you always end up taking some of it home with you.

“I still try to be upbeat but it’s hard when you have someone shouting in your face or throwing beer at you. Life is incredibly difficult for a lot of people right now and we understand that but please don’t make it harder for us.”

The shop workers’ union Usdaw meanwhile is running an online petition calling for legislation to create a specific offence of abusing, threatening or assaulting a retail worker. Ahead of yesterday’s lifting of the second England lockdown in some parts, Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary said: “The run-up to Christmas is always a really busy time when stores are busy, shoppers can be stressed and things can boil over. We are concerned that after a four-week lockdown there could be crowds and chaos on our high streets, with people rushing back to shops that still have necessary Covid safety measures in place and that can result in abuse of shop workers, or worse.

“During this appalling pandemic we have been shocked to find that incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shop workers have doubled, with the main flash-points being enforcing Covid rules, queueing and shortage of stock. None of these are the fault of shop workers, but they too often end up on the wrong side of customers frustrations.

“The reopening of non-essential stores ahead of Christmas offers a lifeline for many retailers, who would have struggled if they could not trade in December, traditionally the busiest month of the year. Our members are looking forward to welcoming back customers. We urge shoppers to avoid the first few days to help avoid overcrowding, follow the rules, be patient, but most of all ‘keep your cool’ and respect shop workers.”

Sussex Police’s Business Crime Lead Chris Neilson said: “The assault and abuse of shop workers simply doing their job in our communities is a serious concern for Sussex Police and will not be tolerated. Sussex Police will wherever possible take robust action against anyone targeting and intimidating retail staff. Sussex police has invested in officers that are dedicated to investigating business crimes and provided recent training to contact handlers to recognise where violence and abuse has occurred so that we can act effectively and ensure a victim can access appropriate support.”

You can watch the two-minute Keeping Christmas Kind film, on Youtube:

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