She’s been abused, stabbed with a needle, threatened with a knife and even followed home – just for doing her job.
Here, a store security guard working for a major retailer across Medway, Sittingbourne and Dartford lays bare the shocking reality of dealing with shoplifters on a daily basis…
A typical day at work for me usually consists of dealing with Kent’s finest criminals as they attempt to steal from the store.
Most shoplifters often lurk outside early to sus out which staff members are working that day.
I’ll walk round and check the shop, searching for empty packages and torn-off security tags, taking an overall look at stock – particularly high-value goods – and making a mental note of how many products are on the shelves.
When I’ve caught someone in the act, it’s not as simple as confronting them straight away. I have to first make sure they have made no attempt to pay – usually I have to wait until they’ve walked straight through the tills or out the door.
Once they’ve done this, I introduce who I am and tell them what I do and the reason for stopping them.
It can be daunting, but the hardest part of my job is the abuse I have to deal with.
“I hate hearing that I’m going to have my throat slit or be beaten up because someone decided to steal something...”
Considering my job is to deter and prevent theft, people who come in and steal often make me out to be the problem. Not many people take responsibility for their actions, often resulting in them insulting me, abusing me and threatening to come back and harm me.
I’ve had many horrible things happen to me. I’ve had a box-cutter knife pulled out on me when stopping a thief. I’ve been followed home by a shoplifter.
But the worst thing to ever happen to me was being stabbed in the leg with a needle.
I was stopping a shoplifter with a large amount of items concealed in a pull-along trolley when it happened.
The man resisted and I was forced to call for back-up. But while a female police officer was trying to get her cuffs on him, he pulled a needle out and jabbed me in the leg. The man then made off.
I had to have many tests to see if I had contracted anything. Eventually, I was given the all-clear, but it was the longest six months of my life.
Now and then, I’m racially abused. This happens two to three times a week. I’m mixed-raced, and I’m usually told “go back to your own country”, or called a p***.
At one stage I was forever being called “fat”. It had such an impact on my self-esteem that I lost a hell of a lot of weight just to stop people from body-shaming me.
Shoplifters I stop often ask me “do you enjoy your job?” and the honest answer is no, most days I don’t.
I hate having to feel guilty for just doing my job, which provides food on my table and roof over my head.
I hate being offered a fight in a camera blind spot – all over someone stealing a Red Bull.
I hate hearing that I’m going to have my throat slit or be beaten up because someone decided to steal something.
Some of the stories I come home with are scary for my family to listen to but over the years, I’ve learned to just laugh – especially when it comes to the really crazy days.
And despite all the bad things that happen, I have had some happier times. I like that no two days are the same, and I like being able to connect with locals.
When I stop a shoplifter, it’s never anything personal. And if I can help someone, often I will.
If it’s a homeless person taking food to eat, I will buy it for them.
And I’ve paid for feminine products for young girls who have resorted to stealing after being caught short.
There was a mother struggling with three children, so I gave her advice. And there’s the drug addicts I’ve managed to point in the right direction to get help.
So the role has its benefits, and can be rewarding. But as exciting as it can be, I’ve unfortunately lost my soul from it.
The security industry isn’t what it was, the money isn’t enough for what we have to put up with and often we’re not listened to about how dangerous it is.
Stores and shop workers are not protected enough by the courts. It seems a lot of the time when incidents are reported, the judiciary system does nothing.
The criminals know how to get away with it – and they often do.