Independent retailers are calling for government support to help them protect their stores from an ongoing shoplifting epidemic.

The Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) and the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) have written to policing minister Chris Philp asking for a government grant to be created to tackle the problem.

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals a 24 per cent increase in shoplifting incidents in England and Wales in the year to March 2023.

While larger stores are rolling out more CCTV, offering workers body cameras and increasing the number of security guards that they have to better protect their staff from theft, attacks and abuse, smaller retailers are hampered by tighter margins and are unable to follow suit.

The letter calls for a grant worth up to £1,500 per retailer, with the money enabling smaller shops to improve security measures.

The retailers argue it would help deter crimes from being committed, and also reduce the strain on local police forces.

The Fed’s National President Muntazir Dipoti said: “Shop theft is not victimless. It blights the lives of independent retailers on a daily basis and has significant implications for a store’s viability. I am sure that every Fed member has been affected by crime at some point, and, sadly, many incidents of shoplifting are becoming increasingly violent.

“With the cost-of-living crisis, we are seeing regular customers turning to shoplifting because they can’t afford to live.”

Mr Dipoti added: “The burden of crime prevention shouldn’t fall on retailers’ shoulders.  Government intervention is crucial to safeguard retailers, particularly smaller shops.

“Security measures are expensive to buy and install, and we as shop owners need support to protect ourselves, our staff and our livelihoods.”

The letter to the policing minister comes as The Fed launches its Safe, Secure, Supported campaign to highlight the impact that shop theft has on independent retailers and their communities.

Mr Dipoti added that currently many retailers failed to report shop theft because of poor police responses.

He said: “Retailers are disillusioned by the lack of police action when crimes are committed so they do not report them.

“Tackling shop theft has to be given the energy and priority it deserves from the police and the justice system and independent retailers should be given financial support so they can invest in better-quality CCTV to protect them, their staff and their businesses.”

David Coates, Newsquest's managing director for the North East, added: “Newsquest is squarely behind the Federation of Retail Newsagents (The Fed) as it lobbies Government to support its members whom in many cases suffer the consequence of shoplifting theft, and the threat of violence against themselves and their staff, on a daily basis. 

"We are pleased to shine a light on this issue and offer our full support to newsagents and the FED in this worthwhile campaign.”