Grocery stores in the United Kingdom are seeing a sharp rise in violent shoplifters, some of whom have reportedly attacked customers and staff with HIV-positive needles. Three employees at Iceland Foods, a grocery retailer in the nation with over 1,000 locations, have been infected with the virus as a result of the horrific attacks.
According to the Daily Mail, the British supermarket chain has lost over £20 million over the last year alone due to shoplifters. In addition, the chain’s executive chairman, Richard Walker, admitted to seeing an average of 12 “serious incident” reports every week.
Disturbingly, Walker explained to Daily Mail that HIV-positive needles have been used in past shoplifting-motivated attacks at the retailer.
“Colleagues are being slapped, punched and threatened with a range of weapons, including knives, hammers, firearms and hypodermic needles,” said Walker. “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.”
Reports from retail chains across Britain have also claimed that staff members have been punched, bottled, and stabbed by thieves who appear to operate in gangs. Employees across varying stores have also reportedly been threatened and attacked with syringes and, in one instance at a Co-op supermarket location, a medieval mace.
Despite many retail executives coming forward with concerns about the uptick in shoplifting in Britain, many blame the police for negligence and want more support to combat the criminal activity.
Iceland Foods chairman Richard Walker believes one solution is to grant security guards more power to search suspects. He also complained that data protection laws have made it tricky to share photos of thieves with nearby stores.
“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,” said Walker.
“The criminals know this, particularly the organized one[s] – they know their rights,” added Walker. “We need more powers for security personnel to search suspects and detain them until police arrive.”
Concluding, Walker explained that due to a lack of resources, the police ignore 70% of calls related to shoplifting, and, in many instances, the criminals get to walk free. As a result, the British Retail Consortium, a trade association representing retailers in the United Kingdom, said that incidents of “violence and abuse against staff” have nearly doubled from more than 450 per day in 2019 [and] 2020 to more than 850 last year.