Sitting next to a retailer at the cricket on Sunday, I was not the only one disturbed when his phone rang.

"It was the local police," he told me later. "They are investigating a burglary that happened in January and have only just got around to watching the tapes."

With this rate of progress for an offence where there is plenty of available evidence, it is hardly surprising that retailers are rapidly losing confidence in the police.

The previous Sunday, a newsagent was stabbed to death in Luton and, by way of a contrast, the local police arrested a suspect within hours.

It goes without saying that nobody thinks the police have an easy job, and that their already thin resources are being made thinner by reduced manpower and increasing demands. And their decision to prioritise investigating a murder over a shop theft is the same decision that anyone would make. But there are fundamental similarities with both instances, as in both cases the criminal's main aim was to steal cigarettes.

Smuggled and counterfeited cigarettes get a lot of attention, but stolen cigarettes are just as big a problem for the trade, and often it is the same criminal networks that sell the booty on the open market.

If it takes a murder for the police to act, then the small store sector has very real cause for concern. Much better to reduce the criminals' opportunity by restricting the ease with which cigarettes are sold at car boot sales, pub car parks and street corners. If the authorities had greater focus on clamping down on these sales then the gangs' chances of monetising their crimes would be reduced, and the police would have fewer robberies and hopefully fewer murders to investigate in the first place.