Workers at the chemists on Fargate say they face threats, spitting, aggression, discrimination, false accusations of assault and ‘brazen’ shoplifting.
The problems have been going on for years, but lockdowns left people more desperate, they say.
But staff claim they get no backing from Boots, which appears to accept the losses, or the police, who ‘never turn up’.
WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING AT BOOTS AT THE MOMENT?
The Star spoke to three shop floor workers who said it was ‘like being in a war zone’.
One said: “It’s not safe and no one is addressing it. It’s putting shoppers off.
“People on the streets are getting more aggressive. Something bad is going to happen, someone is going to get stabbed.”
Another said it was the same group of up to 12 people who loiter on the steps of Lloyds Bank or benches outside Boots.
They knew security guards could not physically touch them. But at Christmas a guard was threatened with a knife and another was falsely accused of punching someone.
The worker added: “They are so brazen, they steal things and wave them in the air and say ‘bye!’. It’s like supermarket sweep.”
Some get medication from Boots and staff acknowledged they have a duty of care to everyone.
But when incidents occur they felt they were not high priority, they added.
WHO HAS RESPONSIBILITY FOR MAKING THE CITY CENTRE SAFE?
Tackling anti-social behaviour in the city centre falls to the police, city centre ambassadors employed by the council and Business Improvement District street teams.
But another worker said they had little impact.
“The only time you see police is when there’s a football match, and Boots don’t seem to care.
“Sheffield City Council has CCTV covering Fargate. They have to have loads of evidence before they will act. I think they class it as a nuisance. The BID says they are looking at it, but we haven’t seen anything change.”
WHAT IS BOOTS SAYING?
A Boots spokesman said: “We take matters such as this extremely seriously - violence and aggression of any kind is completely unacceptable in our stores.”
They were ‘investing heavily’ in security in all stores and would continue to ‘monitor the situation’ on Fargate, he added.
Last summer, a Chinese student was attacked outside Boots in a shocking incident which made headlines across the world.
Police said then they fast-tracked the case as a hate crime.
WHAT ARE THE POLICE SAYING?
Inspector Danielle Spencer, from SYP’s Sheffield Central Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We are aware of a number of reports from Boots on Fargate in relation to thefts and violent crime.
"In recent weeks we have charged two people in relation to assault offences. Whilst all crimes can have a devastating impact on the victims, we particularly recognise that Covid-19 has had a terrible impact recently on our community of retailers, who are so important to the city centre.”
In the last month they had identified 25 suspects in connection with retail-related crime in the city centre, she added.
And 15 ‘targeted activities’ were planned.
Diane Jarvis, head of business operations at Sheffield BID, said: “BID Street Teams undertake patrols in these areas daily and feedback information so it can be passed to relevant partners for action.”
Sheffield City Council was contacted for comment.