Grocery stores are bearing the brunt of the recent crime wave according to the Home Office’s newly released Commercial Victimisation Survey.

The annual survey revealed that there were 8.1 million crimes committed in the retail and wholesale sector last year, an increase of 2.9 million offences compared to the year before.

This also saw the number of stores experiencing crime rise from 37% to 44%.

Of these 8.1 million incidents, two thirds were shoplifting offences, and one third of shoplifting offences involved the theft of grocery items.

ACS CEO James Lowman described the findings as “concerning but unfortunately not surprising”, with the rising crime levels confirming the results of the ACS’ own crime report published in March. Of the 5.34m shoplifting offences reported by the Home Office, the ACS claims that one in six occurred in a convenience store.

Lowman said these incidents often lead to violent crimes against shop staff and added: “These offences must be taken seriously by police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners, the justice system and central government.”

While the Home Office’s research showed that chain-owned stores are victims of more crimes per 1,000 staff than independents, research by Retail Express showed independents receive a worse response from the police and justice system. An analysis of 10,000 shoplifting offences from 21 police authorities found that shoplifters targeting independent convenience stores are four times less likely to be caught.

An earlier investigation by Retail Express revealed that police respond slower to crimes at independent convenience stores than at multiple owned stores.

Store owners said the police’s inability to catch or even pursue offenders in many instances can lead to under-reporting of crime. The Home Office statistics showed that just one in three retail and wholesale businesses report all incidents of shoplifting.

The Commercial Victimisation Survey also showed that stores that the burden of crime falls disproportionately on a small number of stores. While only 24% said they had experienced customer theft, that 24% had on average of 59 shoplifting incidents last year. While only 5% of stores reported being victims of a robbery, these 5% were robbed, on average, 16 times.

Read more: Senior anti-business crime officer calls for new laws to protect shop staff