The past year has seen an alarming increase in 'credit crunch crimes' such as shoplifting, two major new surveys have found.

Shoplifting has increased by 10% in the past year, according to the British Crime Survey (BCS), with 320,846 incidents reported to the police in 2008/09. The jump follows a 1% fall in the previous year.

Retailers and trade associations are blaming the increase on the recession and the fact that offenders view shop theft as a low-risk crime.

Douglas Gill of Doug 'n' Di's in Stockport, Cheshire, told C-Store: "Shoplifting has always been a problem for us, but we have noticed an increase of late. Soft drinks and biscuits are the most commonly targeted items, but people will have a go at anything, really.

"Teenagers are the worst offenders and I used to call the police out on a regular basis, but I now find it's more effective to get the parents involved."

The BCS findings are supported by a separate survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which found that 90% of retailers had experienced an increase in retail crime in the past 12 months.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said the increase would force up costs for retailers and their customers. "Police must understand the importance of a thriving retail sector to communities, and the need to respond promptly to incidents. Repeat offenders and those who threaten our staff must be prosecuted properly," he added.

Just under 80% of retailers questioned for the survey said that they had responded to the increase in crime by spending more on CCTV, improved product protection and better staff training.