The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed a new report from the Centre for Social Justice, called Desperate for a Fix, which highlights the close link between drug addiction and theft, and calls for new policies to tackle the £6.3bn annual cost of shop theft.

Drug addiction drives up to 70% of shop theft and is often associated with threats and violence in stores. To tackle the problem, the Centre for Social Justice recommends the creation of a Second Chance Programme for offenders, targeting up to 10,000 offenders through a £250m fund invested over five years.

Shop thieves would enter the programme, rather than being issued with fixed penalty notices or other measures that have been proved to be ineffective, and receive education and rehabilitation before they could have progressed to other crimes such as robberies, burglaries and violent offences.

The report also makes a series of recommendations to the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, Police and Crime Commissioners and local forces, calling on them to tackle the root causes of shop theft, and to improve the justice system’s response when thefts occur.

Other recommendations made in the report include:

• police forces and police and crime commissioners should be clear on what a “good response” looks like and what constitutes “good reporting” from businesses and victims more generally;

• HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services ) should conduct a thematic review of the response to business and retail crime by police forces in England and Wales;

• the National Business Crime Centre should support chief constables in appointing a national network of dedicated full-time police force leads for business crime.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Theft is an all too common occurrence in the convenience sector causing significant harm to businesses and the people running and working in these stores. This report shows just how serious a problem shop theft is, and we welcome the recommendations aimed at making retail crime more of a priority.

"We are actively promoting the report’s call for better working between retailers and police and crime commissioners by calling on all police and crime commissioners to sign up to a series of pledges to take shop theft seriously and deal more effectively with repeat offenders.”

The 2018 ACS Crime Report shows that shop theft cost every convenience store in the sector an average of over £1,700 a year. Convenience store retailers are also most concerned about violence and abuse against staff, as challenging shop thieves is reported as the number one cause of violence and aggression in stores.