The number of recorded shoplifting incidents increased by 10% in the year to March 2017, new figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal.

A separate Home Office report reveals that the police workforce in England and Wales is at its smallest since 2003.

A total of 369,440 shoplifting incidents were recorded in the 12 month period, while overall offences record by police also rose by 10% to nearly five million.

Shoplifting incidents were up by more than 10,000 compared with the year ending December 2016.

“The latest figures show the largest annual rise in crimes recorded by the police in a decade. While ongoing improvements to recording practices are driving this volume rise, we believe actual increases in crime are also a factor in a number of categories,” said John Flatley, Crime Statistics and Analysis, Office for National Statistics.

The number of police workers fell by 2,237 (1%) to 198,684 on 31 March 2017, with the number of Police Community Support Officers declining by 7.5% to 10,213.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “Shop theft has a significant damaging impact on the convenience sector, costing retailers over £131m last year alone. While retailers are making investments in their stores to prevent and deal with the impact of crime, the consistency of police response remains a concern for many, especially given the latest figures on the number of officers falling.

“We encourage the government and local police forces to look at ways to ensure that crimes against retailers receive the attention they need and that offenders are dealt with using effective deterrents.”