Police are recording more shoplifting offences than at any other time in the past 13 years, official figures have revealed.
The trend was among the factors behind a 2% rise in the number of “property crimes” logged by forces in England and Wales.
Police recorded 336,505 shoplifting offences in the year ending in March – a 3% rise compared with the previous year.
It is the highest volume since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard in the year ending March 2003.
There were reported increases in 28 of the 44 police force areas, according to a study published by the Office for National Statistics.
“The longer-term trend in shoplifting recorded by the police is different from that seen for other theft offences,” the report said.
“While most theft offences saw steady declines over much of the last decade, incidents of recorded shoplifting have shown comparatively little change over this time.”
The overall rise in police recorded property crime, which accounted for just under three million offences, should be seen in the context of a long-term downward trend, statisticians said.
They cited categories of criminal damage, arson and fraud as the main drivers behind the rise, while theft from a person and vehicle offences also showed slight increases.
The majority of crime results from the illegal acquisition of property, making up about two in three of all police recorded offences and 80% of all incidents estimated by the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
A reduction in property crime has been the main driver in falling crime numbers since the mid-1990s, the report said.
“The CSEW indicates that while there have been long-term declines across most types of property crime, the falls have been most pronounced in vehicle-related thefts (which include attempted thefts as well as actual thefts from and of vehicles), domestic burglary and criminal damage,” it said.
In the survey year ending in March, estimates of CSEW property crime, excluding fraud, continued to fall with a reduction of 7% from 5.4 million to 5.1 million incidents compared with the previous year.