Shoplifting in supermarkets has soared in the last four years, according to new figures.
Statistics obtained by the Press Association from police forces across the country show officers were called to investigate 78,110 shoplifting incidents in 2017, up from 74,662 the previous year, 74,124 in 2015, and 72,423 before that.
The data, based on comparable figures from 25 police forces under Freedom of Information laws, also indicates a year-on-year rise in shoplifting and pick-pocketing incidents at supermarkets.
Incomplete figures from 27 forces show there were a further 46,973 shoplifting incidents, and an additional 1,659 thefts against the person, at supermarkets during 2018, up until the end of the summer.
The British Retail Consortium said the data highlighted the plight of both shoppers and owners in shouldering the cost of shoplifting.
James Martin, the trade organisation’s crime and security adviser, said: “These figures indicate that, despite the best efforts of our members, criminals are increasingly targeting supermarkets.
“Ultimately, the costs are borne by everyday shoppers and those who rely on retail for their livelihoods. We acknowledge the difficult resourcing and prioritisation decisions which police forces face, but it is clearly time that every police force gives retail crime the strategic priority it deserves.”
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “These figures mirror the increase seen in many other types of crime.
“And, although they may not be considered the most serious of offences, it is important those responsible are not allowed to do as they wish without the fear of being caught.
“The reality is that officers can be tied up, sometimes for hours dealing with shoplifters, preventing them from answering other 999 calls which may be more urgent. It’s all about priorities.
“Ten years of the Government’s austerity policies, which have seen officer numbers cut by nearly 22,000, have resulted in policing becoming an almost entirely reactive service.
“There are simply not enough officers to deal with what is being asked of them.
“The sad fact is that as forces struggle to meet 999-call demand, incidents such as these are increasingly likely not to be attended by officers at all which, as a serving police constable with 26 years’ service, I find quite shocking.”