The global coronavirus pandemic has managed to wreak havoc on almost every part of our normal lives, leaving tragedy in its wake and the prospect of enormous economic disruption in the future.
We are all tired of this virus (I know I am) and while there is significant light on the horizon in the form of several vaccines, we are by no means out of the woods yet.
The good news is that Christmas is just around the corner and although it will definitely not be a ‘normal’ Christmas, it will give us cause for some much-needed joy and celebration. The Government’s five-day festive bubble will allow us to see family and friends and our release from Lockdown 2.0 has afforded us far more freedom to enjoy festive events, have a meal at a pub or restaurant and hit the high streets for a spot of Christmas shopping.
Shops and businesses all over Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been hit extremely hard by the pandemic and just last week we heard about the collapse of massive groups such as Debenhams and Arcadia.
Many businesses - particularly the small, nimble local firms – formed the backbone of our communities during the first lockdown earlier this year. Whether it was greengrocers delivering fruit and vegetables or local chemists making sure people got their prescriptions, they did us proud.
Which is why it is so appalling that some shopkeepers are being assaulted while simply trying to do their jobs. It’s not only emergency service workers who suffer from assaults while doing their jobs.
According to a survey by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), attacks on shopworkers increased substantially since the start of the pandemic.
The survey of retail workers revealed that:
- 76% thought abuse has been worse than normal during the Covid-19 pandemic
- 85% had experienced verbal abuse
- 57% were threatened by a customer
- 9% were assaulted
These findings have also been backed up by national supermarket chain Co-op which, nationally, saw a 36% increase in staff being assaulted – amounting to a staggering 40,000 incidents in total.
This sort of behaviour is unacceptable at the best of times – but during a pandemic when everyone is struggling and kindness and understanding are more important than ever, it is simply deplorable.
And it’s not just happening elsewhere in the UK, shop workers are being attacked right here in Devon and Cornwall.
David-Joe Williams, whose family run St James Dairy in Ilfracombe, North Devon, have truly gone above and beyond to keep their customers served during the pandemic, working around the clock to offer free deliveries to those who need it most.
But not just that, they have also been doing their best to spread some much-needed joy at what has been an extremely difficult time. David-Joe has been carrying out deliveries dressed as Murgatroyd the dancing cow, entertaining entire postcode areas with his beat-box boogying and even arranging special, socially-distanced visits for children’s birthdays.
You only have to look at the shop’s Facebook page to see the videos and witness first-hand the heart-warming effect this has had on the community of Ilfracombe.
So it may come as a surprise to hear that, despite such altruism, David-Joe has been assaulted numerous times in the course of his work - most recently just last week when he was grabbed by a man who then attempted to throw a hot cup of tea over him.
It’s for these reasons that I’m really pleased to be taking part in the #KeepingChristmasKind campaign this December.
The brainchild of fellow PCC for Sussex Katy Bourne, this scheme aims to highlight the unseen plight of shopkeepers as they are thrust on to the festive frontline of a Covid Christmas.
By sharing some of the shocking tales of how people like David-Joe and his family are treated, the campaign acts as a timely reminder for us all to be patient and kind with those we encounter at this time of year.
We are also using the campaign to encourage shopkeepers to report any such offences, as well as to highlight the services available to them as victims of crime.
- In an emergency situation, always dial 999
- Contact Devon and Cornwall Police in a non-emergency via webchat, online crime reporting form, emailing email@example.com or calling 101. More information at dc.police.uk/contact
- If you have been affected by crime, help and support is available. Find out more at victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk