Shoplifters give store staff HIV in attack with needles, supermarket chains call for government action
As per Sharon White, the chairman of John Lewis, shoplifting in the UK has now become an 'epidemic'
LONDON, UK: The Iceland Foods’ boss has revealed that three of his staff members have tested positive for HIV after being allegedly struck with hypodermic needles by shoplifters.
Richard Walker, executive chairman of the Iceland Foods, told MailOnline, “Every single week I receive an average of 12 reports of ‘serious incidents’ where managers and other colleagues have been attacked in our stores, almost always by shoplifters.”
He continued, “Colleagues are being slapped, punched, and threatened with a range of weapons including knives, hammers, firearms, and hypodermic needles.”
“Three of our store colleagues are now HIV positive as a result of needle attacks several years ago. Other assaults have resulted in injuries ranging from a broken jaw to a fractured skull,” Walker added.
Co-op, John Lewis, and Waitrose’s staff face 'aggressive shoplifting' too
However, Iceland is reportedly not the only supermarket chain that is dealing with the shoplifting issue.
As per Sharon White, the chairman of John Lewis, shoplifting in the UK has now become an “epidemic.”
Besides, Co-op’s campaigns and public affairs director, Paul Gerrard, shared that they “are running at about a thousand incidents of shoplifting a day across our two and a half thousand stores.”
“Four or five colleagues will be physically attacked every day. We've seen syringes, knives and we even saw a medieval mace a couple of years ago,” he added.
MailOnline citing a report by the British Retail Consortium stated that while in 2019/2020, shop staffers were facing over 450 cases of violence and abuse every day, in 2022, it increased to more than 850.
Data protection laws creates hindrances in tackling shoplifting cases
Walker said, “We've had a run-in in the past with the Information Commissioner's Office because sharing photos of known shoplifters with other stores on the high street via WhatsApp groups apparently breaches their human rights under GDPR.”
“When I started working in stores I used to print faces on the board so staff could be aware but even that may not be allowed now. We are investing record amounts on security but we need legislation and government support,” he mentioned.
The executive chairman also went on to state, “We need more powers for security personnel to search suspects and detain them until police arrive.
“Unfortunately, police ignore 70 percent of calls for help with store thefts. It's not necessarily their fault," he added.
“They need to have the resources to allow them to take this crime epidemic seriously. We also need the courts to impose serious sentences. It's almost become seen as a crime without punishment,” he asserted.
What authorities are saying?
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson told MailOnline, “Shoplifting is clearly unacceptable and then the public would expect us to work with police forces to drive down crime.”
They went on to say, “It's worth noting that crime overall has fallen significantly, whether it's on neighbor crimes like burglary, robbery, vehicle theft, or indeed a violent crime.”
The spokesperson added, “Police forces in England and Wales have rightly committed to pursuing any available evidence where there's a reasonable chance it could lead them to catching a perpetrator and solving a crime, and we hope to see significant improvements in the way the police approach crimes like shoplifting to bring more offenders to justice.”