Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy has called for a change in the law to make abuse or violence towards retail workers an offence across the UK.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Murphy revealed the supermarket chain has offered body-worn cameras to members of staff who need them after seeing physical assaults rise by a third in a year.
He said Tesco has invested £44million in four years on security measures including door access systems, protection screens and digital radios, as well as the cameras, but called for more to be done against offenders.
“Money spent on making sure people are safe at work is always well spent,” he said. “But it should not have to be like this. Crime is a scourge on society and an insult to shoppers and retail workers.
“These people are small in number but have a disproportionate impact.”
Saying it is “time we put an end to it”, he labelled the rise in incidents as “unacceptable” and the impact on workers “heartbreaking”.
“I want those who break the law in our stores brought to book,” he said. “After a long campaign by retailers and the union Usdaw, last year the Government made attacking shop workers an aggravating factor in convictions – meaning offenders should get longer sentences.
“Judges should make use of this power. But we need to go further, as in Scotland, and make abuse or violence towards retail workers an offence in itself.”
He also called for better links with police forces and for businesses to be given a right to know how a case is proceeding when someone commits a crime in one of their stores.
“This would help us to spot patterns and provide reassurance that justice is being done,” he said.
“Gangs take advantage of the fact we do not share enough information. We’ll only be able to stop these thugs if we work together.”