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Chemist Warehouse managing partner wants voice heard after ongoing attacks on staff and stealing in Geraldton

A Geraldton chemist manager dealing with constant shoplifting and abuse is desperate for his voice to be heard after losing around $20,000 of stock in six months and having trouble retaining staff.

Chemist Warehouse managing partner Mahmoud Elshwekh moved to Geraldton six years ago to run the business on Marine Terrace and has become numb to the constant shoplifting occurring in his store.

“It’s not like a frequent flyers scheme or a reward program where you need to get assaulted five times and you will win, it doesn’t work like that,” he said.

Mr Elshwekh said he deals with stealing and assaults frequently — sometimes more than once a day — and the offenders are known to both the store and police.

“We have reported them so many times. I’m not blaming the police, I’m blaming the whole system — the police, the judge, the court, the law — something needs to happen, we can’t be physically or mentally abused like this,” he said.

Mr Elshwekh said the verbal abuse his staff faced was “the worst stuff you would ever hear in your life” and includes slander towards their families, race and religion.

But he said it wasn’t only his store subject to the daily abuse, and retailers in town were frustrated.

“You can imagine the amount of pressure we are facing, my biggest fear is what if one day a staff member loses it and defends themselves, the blame will be on us,” he said.

Mr Elshwekh said he approached shoplifters filling bags with unpaid goods and attempted to retrieve stolen perfumes, makeup and vitamins.

“Easily it would have been two grand worth. They started throwing rocks at me and smashing alcohol bottles on my head until I gave up,” he said.

Mr Elshwekh said the last six months stocktake found $20,000 of stock unaccounted for.

“Being Chemist Warehouse, it’s a big store with two entrances, we have high value items on the shelves, we’re open late so we get a high share because of the trading hours,” he said.

Mr Elshwekh said staff requested daytime shifts and asked not to be put on late shifts because it was less safe.

“The staff are most of the time scared. I have a very clear policy with the staff not to do anything and report to myself or the security because I don’t want one of our staff to be injured.”

Geraldton police acting officer in charge Sen. Sgt Stuart Gerreyn said police would continue to investigate any complaints made by retail stores, and it was not ideal to hear reports of repeat thefts occurring, but police could only lay charges based on legislation.

“As a police agent we don’t like to see offenders continue to steal. Once they are dealt with it’s up to the courts and it’s beyond our control, but the courts are also bound by legislation in terms of what penalties they can issue,” he said.

“Our hands are tied a little bit when it comes to that.”

Sen. Sgt Gerreyn said Geraldton retail outlets could issue a banning notice to shoplifters or those who abused staff as a way of dealing with repeat offenders who could be subsequently charged with trespassing.

“When we identify and charge people there or at any retail outlet in town we have banning notices that we can serve,” he said.

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