Shopworkers punched and threatened with knives, needles and glass

Shopkeepers reveal violence and abuse that has now become 'commonplace' across Scotland's stores.

Knives, needles and glass are among the things Dan Brown has been threatened with at work.

Like many shopkeepers across Scotland, he has witnessed a rise in violence, theft and abuse to the point of it becoming “commonplace”.

He owns the Pinkie Farm Convenience Store in Musselburgh and says stealing is putting the safety of workers at risk.

“We’ve certainly seen a significant increase in the crimes that are happening in our store and, for us, the main concern is the violence and abuse that comes with that,” he told STV News.

“It’s no longer about the cost to our business – it’s the safety of our colleagues who should feel safe coming to work every day.”

Shopkeeper Dan Brown said the last year has seen a sharp rise in stealing.STV News

Mr Brown said it was not just him but a majority of shopkeepers across the country who are now experiencing abuse on a “daily basis”.

“There’s also a lot of physical violence as well,” he said. “I’ve personally been threatened with knives, needles and glass – and all recently as well.

“Unfortunately it just seems to be part of the job now. There definitely needs to be something done about it.”

Mr Brown said there had been a particular rise in retail crime in the last year.

An industry study by the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) found every single convenience retailer reported shoplifting is on the rise while 92% said violence against staff happens at least once a week and hate crimes once a month.

‘He threw a can in my face and started punching me’

Umar Majid, who runs Baba’s Kitchen and Costcutter in Bellshill, told STV News he was repeatedly punched when he confronted a shoplifter stealing alcohol.

He told STV News: “Just coming up for three years ago we caught a customer stealing, we kicked him out the shop and he became aggressive and assaulted me.

“He threw a can in my face, he started punching my face, left bruising on my cheekbone and around my neck.

“It was only last year the court case actually came but he never showed up and now there’s a warrant out for him. Nothing has come of it yet.”

Shopkeeper Umar Majid said abuse in his store is on the rise.STV News

Mr Majid said the alleged assault took a mental toll on him and has left him feeling anxious about going to work.

He continued: “We’ve had to give staff mental days off when they’ve been given abuse, we’ve had staff through the back crying because of the abuse.

“Their mental health is degrading because of it.”

According to Dr Pete Cheema, the chief executive of the SGF, in-store crime has become so bad that some of his members are now refusing to go to work.

“Almost every week we are told of another terrible incident in one of our members’ stores,” he said.

“From machete and knife attacks to organised gangs roving through communities targeting vulnerable businesses to loot. It’s completely understandable that some members of staff are now refusing to come to work for fear of their safety.

“Sadly, these incidents and many others even more distressing and harrowing cases of shop theft, abuse, threatening behaviour, and violence are now commonplace in stores right across Scotland. Our annual survey of Scottish convenience stores shows just how bad things have become.”

Assistant chief constable Tim Mairs said there had been a rise in both thefts and assaults on shop staff.

He said staff have a right to feel safe at their workplace and described the rise in crime as “unacceptable”.

Assistant chief constable Tim Mairs said staff should be able to feel safe at their workplace.STV News

He said criminal behaviour in shops had seen a sharp increase following a dip during Covid. But he said it is now starting to rise above pre-pandemic levels.

“A lot of the issues that are driving this increase in crimes are things we can’t arrest our way out of, ” he said. “So I’m keen to explore partnerships with the industry but also with wider partners to address the underlying causes that are driving these forms of criminality.

“Ultimately, prevention is far better than cure.”

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