Blunkett backs store-crime blitz

Home Secretary David Blunkett addressed shopworkers' union Usdaw's conference on Tuesday to promote schemes designed to reduce crime and attacks on shop workers.

He flagged London's Stop Watch scheme and Norfolk's Specials Through Employment Partnership (STEP) as good examples of ways in which retail staff and local communities can combat crime. The initiatives enable employees to work as special constables and walk the beats they work in.

Blunkett's speech coincided with Usdaw's announcement that it will hold a National Respect for Shopworkers Week from July 5 to July 11.

The union also plans to release the findings of a survey about physical assault, threats of violence or verbal abuse suffered by shopworkers.

Blunkett said: 'Everyone has a responsibility in the fight against crime. Shopworkers and retailers have a great deal to contribute. When at work they make a vital contribution to the safety of the community and too often are themselves at risk. I would urge employers, workers and unions to learn from, and embrace, these innovative special constable schemes.'

Retail crime costs the industry about£2.25 billion a year.

Separately, conference delegates called for an end to retailers staying open late on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. A motion was carried calling for shops to close by 4pm on these days.