Police chiefs and the government are being urged by The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) to make tackling violence a top priority.

ACS has also warned that new figures from the Office for National Statistics’ annual Crime Survey for England and Wales vastly underestimate the level of shop theft - which is linked to violent incidents.

The ONS figures, which cover all of retail, show the number of police reported incidents of shop theft decreased by 3% to 351,874 for the year ending September 2019.

The ACS 2019 Crime Report confirmed that the issue retailers are most concerned about in their stores is violence against their staff, and showed a clear link between theft and abuse, with challenging shop thieves being the number one cause of aggressive behaviour in stores.

Retailers also reported that the vast majority of thefts committed against their business (79%) are by repeat offenders that aren’t being dealt with by local police forces.

The Government has also announced an increase of more than £1.1bn to the amount of funding available to the policing system for 2020 to 2021.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The police recorded crime data does not reflect what local shops tells about shop theft and crime they experience in their stores. Shop theft remains prevalent and is the number one trigger for violence and abuse of staff.

“We welcome the Government’s rhetoric on being tough on crime and more funding for police forces, but this must now turn into reality, including more police resources into local communities and better funding for the justice system to tackle the root cause of offending.”