A Hove store manager has spoken about how customers have screamed in his face and thrown beer at him as part of a campaign asking people to be kind at Christmas.
Steve Pelling, who manages the Co Op in Western Road, Hove, was filmed as part of Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne’s Keep Christmas Kind campaign.
Ms Bourne said she is concerned the year’s tensions could spill out on the high street this Christmas, leading to more abuse and assaults.
Steve, who has worked in retail for more than 20 years, features with his daughter Kayleigh.
In the video, Kayleigh says: “In the mornings, my dad’s quite happy, depending on whether the cat’s woken him up.
“I love the most about my dad that he’s always there for people
“You could ask him any question and he’d always give the best advice he could which for me has been really helpful.
“He has lot of challenging customers. He’s been verbally abused, he’s been in fights. He’s had beer thrown at him.
“He’s exposed to a lot of stressful situations and that can really take a toll on his mental health at times.”
Steve said: “I might be a store manager, but I am also a father. I still try to be upbeat but it’s hard when you have someone shouting in your face or throwing beer at you. Life is incredibly difficult for a lot of people right now and we understand that but please don’t make it harder for us.”
Ms Bourne said: “The rise in assaults and abuse against shop workers is getting out of hand.
“This pandemic has shown how important our local businesses and their staff are to our communities. Intimidation, verbal abuse and violence of any kind against our shopworkers cannot be tolerated.
“I’m seriously concerned about the impact a covid Christmas may have on our local stores. We have all had an incredibly challenging year but we cannot stand by and watch those who have helped keep our country going be abused in this way.”
According to retail trade union Usdaw, every minute of the working day during the pandemic, a shopworker nationally is verbally abused, threatened with violence or physically attacked.
A recent survey with 100 Sussex business owners also showed that 53% had experienced an increase in abuse against their staff during the pandemic.
PCC Bourne recently established the Safer Sussex Business Partnership to identify easier ways for businesses to report crime, increase victim support for shopworkers and target prolific offenders.
Working with retail and other partners, Sussex Police are now leading the way in developing new business crime initiatives, including the training of call handlers to identify which victims should be offered support and providing advice to businesses about how best to supply evidence to ensure a successful case can be brought against criminals.
These improvements are being made to tackle business crime more effectively in the future, but senior police officers are worried about the immediate impact that this Christmas may have on shop workers.
They are showing support to the Keeping Christmas Kind campaign and saying that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.
Sussex Police’s Business Crime Lead Chris Neilson commented: “The assault and abuse of shop workers simply doing their job in our communities is a serious concern for Sussex Police and will not be tolerated.
“Sussex police will wherever possible take robust action against anyone targeting and intimidating retail staff.
“Sussex police has invested in officers that are dedicated to investigating business crimes and provided recent training to contact handlers to recognise where violence and abuse has occurred so that we can act effectively and ensure a victim can access appropriate support.”
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