The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called for police forces to introduce a ‘Most Wanted’ list for prolific shop thieves to help tackle repeat offending.

ACS has put forward a five-point plan for police forces and the government to do more to take retail crime seriously and support local businesses.

1. Introduce a ‘Most Wanted’ list of shop thieves in each police force area, where prolific offenders can be banned from retail areas or referred to rehabilitation programmes.

2. Review the impact of new legislation that makes attacking a public facing worker (including shop staff) an aggravated offence.

3. Invest in rehabilitation programmes for offenders to break the cycle of offending and ineffective punishment.

4. Encourage local forces to use the tools available to them to deal with anti-social behaviour, such as the Community Trigger and Community Remedy powers.

5. Incentivise investment in crime prevention measures.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The levels of theft that retailers are experiencing on a daily basis are unprecedented. Repeat offenders, known to the community and known to the police, are stealing without fear of reproach. The cost of living crisis has increased the level of theft but this isn’t driven by people falling on hard times turning to crime, it’s organised criminal gangs and addicts stealing to fund their drug or alcohol problems. This cannot be allowed to continue.

“Official crime figures barely scratch the surface of the problems that retailers are facing. The Government, Police and Crime Commissioners, and local forces need to take urgent action to stop this national crimewave in its tracks and send a clear message that repeat offenders will be dealt with properly.”

This comes as the ACS annual Crime Report revealed that the theft index, which is calculated by subtracting the percentage of retailers that say that theft in their business has decreased over the last year from the percentage that say it has increased over the last year, has reached new record levels. The record was previously broken last quarter after standing for over 10 years.

The report estimates that there were over 1.1m incidents of theft reported last year, with meat, alcohol and confectionery the most commonly stolen items. It also found that 63% of shop theft is committed by repeat offenders and that £228m was invested by convenience retailers in crime prevention measures over the last year.

Nearly four out of five (79%) of retailers surveyed for the report believe that the cost of living crisis has led to an increase in theft while 87% of colleagues working in convenience stores have experienced verbal abuse over the last year and just 16% of crimes against their business are reported to the police.