It’s time to protect our shop workers

Kevin Scott

Like everyone in the room at the SGF Crime Seminar, I was horrified by the graphic footage of Glasgow retailer Muhammad Jawad Ali being subjected to a random attack in his store in January. Ali was left with multiple fractures, while the attacker left the shop empty-handed and at the time of writing was yet to be apprehended.

Was the SGF right to show such brutal footage? Absolutely. The footage illustrated in horrific, grainy images the threat that all convenience store workers face every single day. It’s not right. In fact, it’s bloody infuriating that this goes on at all, and that despite CCTV footage no arrest has been made.

SGF Chief Executive Pete Cheema has called on shop workers to be given the same protection as emergency service workers – something that has been rejected by Scottish and UK Governments in recent years. He’s right to put it back on the table though. On first glance it seems perhaps a bit extreme – shopkeepers don’t fight crime or put out fires, but the sad truth is that too many people think it’s okay to steal from their local shop, that it’s okay to verbally abuse a worker who asks for proof of ID, or refuses a sale, that it’s okay to spit on a shop worker because of the colour of their skin.

Look at the facts: 92% of stores were subjected to some form of crime in 2014. Furthermore, 22% of shops experience theft on a daily business. And Governments think the present deterrent is sufficient? No, it’s not. I’d advice our politicians to leaf through the SGF Crime Report, see just what our stores have to put up with, and act to ensure they are doing everything in their power to ensure people like Muhammad Jawad Ali or Naser Hussain, who was shot in his store earlier this year, can feel safe in their place of work.

Assistant Chief Constable Kate Thomson admitted at the Seminar that there was an under-reporting of crime in the sector, and this was partly down to a lack of confidence in the police. I’d urge every retailer to overcome any apprehension about reporting crime, whether due to lack of confidence in the police, fear of reprisal or intimidation, and make the call, every single time.

On an entirely separate note, I feel compelled to mention that this is my last editor’s comment in SLR before I move into a new role outside the convenience industry. In the 10 years I’ve been writing about the sector I’ve found it to be welcoming and friendly and full of the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit we’ve long championed in SLR. No matter the challenge, the sector has proved to be resilient, transformative and has remained vital to both the grocery industry and hundreds of local communities across Scotland. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that this will continue for years to come, and I’ll enjoy watching it happen, albeit with a different view.

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Kevin Scott, Editor