Retailers have reacted angrily to suggestions that shoplifters should face lighter penalties.
New research from Group 4 Securicor reveals that nearly half the population - 47% - back reduced punishments for shoplifting. Just one in three would report someone to the police whom they believed was selling stolen goods, with younger people and those living in Greater London least likely to report possible wrongdoing. A quarter would buy something they thought had been shoplifted, if the price was right.
Nigel Dowdney, who owns a store in Earlham, Norwich, is against any reduction in sentencing, particularly for serious shoplifting offences. "My shop is my living and anything that's stolen from it comes out of my bottom line - it affects both me and my staff," he said.
"Shop thieves should be made to feel like criminals," said Jonathan James, who runs a Budgens store in Soham, Cambridgeshire. "They should be arrested, charged, fingerprinted and taken in front of a court."
The Group 4 survey follows proposals from the government's Sentencing Advisory Panel, which suggested shoplifters should not be sent to jail unless they committed an aggravated offence.
Conservative MP Nigel Evans said removing the deterrent of a jail sentence could be seen as giving a green light to shoplifters. "It is self-defeating to inform criminals that the highest level punishment for shoplifting is community service rather than a custodial sentence," he said.