Latest official figures revealing only a modest increase in shoplifting do not reveal the true extent of theft against retailers, according to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed the number of police-recorded shop theft incidents for the year ending June 2018 reached 382,706, a 1% increase on the previous year.

But ACS chief executive James Lowman argued that incidents of shop theft were likely to be higher due to potential under-reporting by police.

“The official statistics may show a slight increase in the number of shop thefts being recorded by the police, but the number of incidents that don’t end up being recorded is likely to be much higher,” he said.

“Retailers consistently tell us that shop theft is regarded as ‘low level’ by their police forces, often do not get dealt with properly and are sometimes screened out entirely. These incidents need to be taken seriously by forces, because theft often leads to abuse and aggressive behaviour against retailers and their staff, who are just doing their job and enforcing the law.”

The ONS survey also reported a steep increase in the number of violent offences recorded, increasing by 19% over the last year to 1.4 million.

Jeeta Bhadal, co-owner of a One Stop franchise and Londis store in Woodhouse, Leeds, said he had “given up reporting any crime” due to the severe lack of police response.

“I couldn’t agree with these statistics more, as most shop owners and managers have stopped reporting crimes altogether. I am aware of government cutbacks mean police attention goes elsewhere, but it doesn’t seem like anything is being done to help us,” he said.

“I have spoken to the local council and stressed our major concerns but nothing is being done. They just say that they will discuss things with the local inspector. I even had a phone call from the police recently about a crime I had reported five months ago, apologising for the lack of contact and that they were closing the file.”