Independent retailers received a firm assurance from a senior police officer this week that the force is committed to promoting a police response to business crime based on the level of threat or harm to individuals, and not the value of goods involved.

The assurance came from Georgie Barnard, a Metropolitan Police detective chief inspector, a senior officer with the National Business Crime Centre during a presentation on retail crime to the NFRN annual conference.

DCI Barnard said every police force in the country was being encouraged to sign up to Op Retail guidelines for dealing with reports of retail crime. These put threat, harm and risk as the key priorities for determining the level of police response.

Responding to comments by West Midlands member Narinder Randhawa about the problems with crimes that caused disruption to the trading area, DCI Bernard stressed the importance of preserving as much evidence as possible.

"If there is an area where there might be a fingerprint, cover it up, or if there is a mark on the floor that looks like it could have come from a trainer put a box over it. If you can't do that, at least take some photographs," she said.

Muntazir Dipoti, the NFRN's newly elected deputy vice president said small retailers were experiencing thefts from their shops almost daily, sometimes with threats of violence.

"We don't feel safe in our shops," he said, adding that independent retailers expected the same level of response to their reports of crime as the supermarkets received.

Ms Barnard encouraged retailers to make use of free crime prevention advice available on the National Business Crime Centre website, nbcc.police.uk . This includes sections on personal and premises security and good practice, cyber crime and fraud and business crime reduction partnerships.