Retailers have suffered the highest levels of shoplifting in nine years, a survey has revealed.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Retail Crime Survey 2013, the number of incidents of shop theft increased by 5% compared to the previous year, reaching the highest level since 2006/07.

The survey also revealed that customer theft accounted for 82% of all retail crime in 2012/13 in volume terms, also the highest level for nine years, while the average value per incident of customer theft reached £177, up from £109 in the previous year.

Despite this rise, only 9% of customer theft offences are reported to the police. The BRC feels this is an indication of the lack of confidence businesses have in the police response to customer theft and that it is perceived as a victimless crime.

The survey also revealed there were 38 incidents of violence and abuse per 1,000 employees. The majority of these incidents were abusive and aggressive behaviour rather than physical violence, but eight violent incidents per 1,000 employees resulted in injury.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson called for a single, national definition for business crime by the police so it can be “properly measured, analysed and addressed”.

“We cannot fight it effectively until the true scale of the problem is understood,” she said. “Retailers are at the heart of local communities. Like all victims, they deserve to know that when a crime is reported, meaningful action will be taken against those responsible for it.”

However, Dickinson praised the new Code of Practice for Victims of Crime which came into effect last month, and that the majority of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) were working with local businesses to tackle retail crime in their policing plans. She called on all PCCs to engage with retailers more and suggested creating a point of contact within the police in their constituency for businesses to liaise with.