The police have been accused of “making a mockery of our tax and crime control systems” by a convenience chain boss who claims criminals are being protected by officers refusing to investigate shop theft.

The criticism comes from Mike Greene, chief executive of My Local, who told RN a store manager in Crumpsall, Greater Manchester, was told by a police officer that the superintendent for the area has instructed his officers to no longer respond to shoplifting incidents.

“Police across the country seem to be actively trying to dissuade retailers from reporting shop theft because they see it as low priority,” Mr Greene said.

“It’s making a mockery of our whole tax and crime control systems. By police saying they are not going to address it, thieves in effect become protected by them.”

My Local Crumpsall manager Chris Foulkes told RN the statement was made to him by a police officer after he lodged a complaint that CCTV relating to various incidents dating back to April had not been collected or investigated.

“We could have several incidents a day, sometimes costing £80 each,” he said. “My Local is a multi-million-pound national business and if they are saying that to us, what does that mean for independent retailers?”

NFRN head of public affairs Adrian Roper said the statement is “extremely concerning” and he will be contacting Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

He said: “They are leaving retailers exposed because someone stealing a couple of packs of crisps could move on to something more serious as they realise there is no penalty for retail crime.”

Mr Greene told RN he is escalating his concerns with ministers because he is “sick of the police treating retail crime as low-level”.

Chief superintendent Wasim Chaudhry of GMP’s City of Manchester team, said: “We will investigate shoplifting offences and will make an assessment based on threat, harm and risk to determine the most appropriate response at that time.

“Each incident is assigned an appropriate grade and there are some incidents that warrant an immediate response, which we will treat as a priority.”