Calls to halt abuse of retail workers

Tiffany Spears, who runs the Best One store on Lord Street, Blackpool, says challenging thieves can  be dangerous

Tiffany Spears, who runs the Best One store on Lord Street, Blackpool, says challenging thieves can be dangerous

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Union bosses have called for tougher penalties for thugs who abuse shopkeepers as retail crime has risen on the Fylde coast.

A Fylde coast shopkeeper today backed the campaign, launched by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), saying threats of violence are an “occupational hazard”.

Usdaw said more than half its members have been verbally abused at work, which is often linked to shoplifting. Blackpool Police said the town is safe to work in, pointing to a 10 per cent drop in shoplifting and robberies as proof.

Tiffany Spears, who runs the Best One store on Lord Street, Fleetwood, said: “We have to challenge shoplifters, you can’t just let them get away. But it is risky – you never know what’s going to happen.

“It’s a very dangerous thing to do and something does need to be done about it. Some people seem to think it is their right to steal and I don’t think that is going to change.”

Sue Ianson, Usdaw’s North West area organiser, said: “Staff are told to challenge if they see someone stealing and that puts them in a bad situation. Members in Blackpool say it’s worse on a Friday and Saturday night.”

The union said action is needed to tackle shoplifting, which has soared in Fylde and Wyre but fallen in Blackpool.

Insp James Martin, who covers the town centre, said police will pursue anti-social behaviour orders against criminals where necessary.

He added: “Shopkeepers generally get assaulted when they try to intervene .

“Smaller independent stores have to do more to defend their livelihoods. The ones without security guards are the most vulnerable and give us the most concern.

“To be aggressive towards a shopkeeper is classed as an aggravating factor and courts do take that into account.

“But don’t get the vibe that shopkeepers are being routinely assaulted.”

Eileen Ormand, of Blackpool Business Improvement District (BID), said offenders are given help to tackle the source of the problem.

She added: “It happens in every town.

“We are very switched on – the council, police and ourselves – and geared up to deal with it.

“We will look for criminal anti-social behaviour orders on repeat offenders but the people you can’t help – and won’t accept help – are in the minority.”