Independent retailers’ reluctance to report shop crime because of a lack of police support could be masking a much higher rise in shoplifting than official figures suggest.

According to the latest Office of National Statistics report, shoplifting in England and Wales has rose 5% to 349,670 offences in 2016, but the NFRN said the true figure is much higher.

Paul Baxter, NFRN chief executive, said that there is a significant level of under-reporting of retail crime, particularly of shop theft.

“The NFRN’s Retail Crime Survey 2015 found that when members were asked why they did not report shop theft to the police, 25% of respondents said ‘police did not respond’, while 34% said that it took ‘too much of their time’,” he said. “A further 33% said they believed that the police were unable to adequately prosecute shoplifters.

“This would mean that despite the ONS reporting a 5% increase last year, the likelihood is that it is actually much higher.”

In December, Retail Express revealed that small shops in England and Wales are affected by a ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to police authority responses to incidences of crime.

A Freedom of Information request obtained by the NFRN found that not only did different areas receive different response times, but supermarkets were more likely to get an urgent or immediate response when reporting a shop theft than independent retailers.

Baxter added that the NFRN wants to see the police, courts and Government doing more to tackle retail crime to give independent retailers more confidence to report incidents.

“To raise awareness, we are meeting with all Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales, as well as highlighting the problems our members are facing at the National Retail Crime Steering Group,” he said.