Retailers and small business owners gathered in Thanet, Kent recently to pose their concerns on business crime to MPs and the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

The summit heard calls for an overhauled system, with MP Craig Mackinlay pledging to work with authorities to establish “smart policing”.

Kent PCC Matthew Scott urged retailers to “report everything”, saying: “It might be a bit frustrating, but if you don’t report it, we won’t get a true picture of the problem.”

However, Kent retailer Reg Bell said retailers were “tired of calling the police” simply to be ignored.

Former retailer and security expert Bob Blackman criticised the onus being placed on retailers to deliver evidence such as CCTV footage to the police.

“Where are we going if the police won’t even go to visit victims of crime?” he said.

“At the moment, there’s a disincentive to report retail crime because very often nothing happens,” said Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North. “We’ve got to make sure there’s a system that gets results.

“I know it’s intensely frustrating to see people only getting a slap on the wrist, or if nothing happens. There’s got to be a certainty that if you go into a convenience store and get caught stealing, there will be consequences. We’ve got to get back to a system where if people give the police information, it’s acted on.”

Mackinlay and Scott also highlighted illicit tobacco as a key issue being faced by retailers, with Scott admitting it was “putting a real pressure on police forces”.

“I’ll be working to convince others that more needs to be done, which will involve working with trading standards and HMRC,” Mackinlay said.

Hitesh Pandya, the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance’s spokesperson on retail crime, said the summit exposed a “detachment between victims of crime and the police”.