By Daniel Hunter

Six months since the first night of violence which began the August riots, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) says the increased use of the courts to punish those involved in retail crime should be maintained as a deterrent.

The BRC's latest Annual Crime Survey found the riots had an impact on over 20,000 retail staff. A third of the stores affected said their employees were exposed to physical violence and nearly 40 per cent reported verbal abuse. More than eight out of ten businesses said their staff were now afraid of future violence, including reprisals.

The BRC says the high proportion of perpetrators who were made to appear in court has sent out the right message about the importance of tackling retail crime. This is in contrast to the high number of fines commonly handed out for shop theft, more than half of which are never paid.

The high number of those involved in the rioting who had previous convictions is a matter of significant concern and emphasises the need for more effective deterrents. The overall annual cost of retail crime has risen 31 per cent to £1.4 billion as a smaller number of crimes are carried out by more serious and organised perpetrators, imposing bigger losses on the sector.

"The riots of last summer should have brought home to everyone that crime against shops is crime against communities," British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson, said.

"The victims include staff who are intimidated and traumatised and local people whose local services are disrupted, either temporarily or for ever.

"The police and courts listened to our demands for the effective pursuit and prosecution of those involved in the burglary and vandalism of hundreds of retail businesses during the riots. The serious way these crimes were dealt with brought people up short and demonstrated the extent to which retail had come to be regarded as a soft target.

"Retailers and their staff — all three million of them - are vulnerable and need protecting. Part of the solution is for the judicial system to send out a clear message that it takes crime against the retail sector seriously. The appropriate punishment of those who persistently and systematically target retailers can only be achieved if offenders are brought before the courts so the full impact of their crimes is clearly understood."

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