Recorded crimes of assault and abuse of Scottish retail workers up 46% YOY

A horrendous 5,490 crimes of abuse and assault of Scottish retail workers were recorded in the year to March 2024, up 46% on the previous year, according to the latest figures from the Scottish government. Meanwhile, shoplifting is at its highest recorded level in a decade.

The Protection of Workers Act, which came into force in August 2021, making assault or abuse of a retail worker a standalone crime, has provided a worrying picture of the gargantuan size of the problem Scottish retailers are facing.

Breaking down the data, the largest increase was in common assault, which rose a massive 55% to 2,555 crimes against Scottish retail workers in 2023-24, accounting for 4% of all common assaults in the country.

There were 13 serious assaults on Scottish shopworkers recorded in the last year, down from 15 in 2022-23.

Incidents of threatening and abusive behaviour against retail workers have risen 39% to 2,922. This miserable figure accounts for 7% of all crimes recorded in the threatening and abusive behaviour category.

Shoplifting levels are equally appalling, having risen 35% YOY to 38,674 recorded crimes in 2023-24. This is an increase of 41% since 2014-15, its highest level recorded in the last ten years. Shoplifting accounts for over a third (35%) of crimes of dishonesty and is now the largest category within this group, having overtaken ‘other theft’, which includes bicycle thefts.

Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief executive Dr Pete Cheema OBE said: “The recorded crime in Scotland statistics for 2023/24 published by the Scottish Government are a real concern for our sector as they clearly show that shoplifting and crimes against retail workers such as assault, threatening and abusive behaviour are prevalent.

“We would urge the Scottish Government to act before things get even worse. If not now, then when?”

The actual number of crimes committed against retailers is in all likelihood far higher because the above data only takes into account recorded crimes and, as Cheema has previously highlighted, many crimes are going unreported because retailers don’t believe the authorities will respond.

The SGF Crime Report & Safer Business Guide 2023/24 showed that the average cost of retail crime has skyrocketed to £12,164 per store in 2023/24, equating to an annual cost of approx. £62.9m, which the group claimed was “crippling the sector”.