The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has renewed calls for state and territory governments to implement tougher penalties for people who assault retail workers.
The industry body notes that “many [retail] crimes unfortunately go unreported”, with recent attacks including:
- A 20-year-old worker stabbed and killed at a bottle shop in Darwin.
- A sales assistant stabbed trying to intervene during a shoplifting incident at a department store in Melbourne.
- A security guard stabbed this week outside a supermarket in South Brisbane.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra says retail crime has increased in both frequency and severity in recent months, with government, police and customers all having a role to play to stamp out the issue.
“It’s horrific that retail violence is becoming a matter of life-and-death. On top of that we have a multitude of growing retail thefts including a growing number of organised crime attacks,” he says.
“This goes beyond the broader issue of retail workers being harassed and intimidated – but also stabbed and subjected to life-threatening attacks. This is unacceptable and is creating extremely high levels of stress and apprehension amongst retail teams and customers. We’re now at the tipping point where urgent action is required.
“This requires a unified approach to protect our workers. Government has a role to play in increasing tougher penalties for people who assault retail workers. Police need increased resources to assist, and retailers need to work closely with authorities and make sure all crime is reported. Technology also has an important role to play in assisting retailers and police.
“We’re mindful that the majority of customers are respectful and do the right thing, but the small minority are making retail a dangerous environment to work in.”
In March, the ARA joined forces with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), calling on state and federal jurisdictions across the country to implement similar reforms to South Australia.
Last year, the South Australian government introduced a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for people convicted of basic assault against a retail worker on the job and seven years when the assault causes harm.