Shop lifting is at its highest reported level since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard in 2003.

The latest annual figures released by the Office for National Statistics show a 5% increase in shop theft.

It reports there were 349,296 incidents of shop theft in the year ending September 2015, which is more than 17,000 higher than the previous year.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Shop theft is a crime that needs be taken seriously. As these figures show, theft is rising and we need the government and police to make sure there is a robust response to shop theft, working closely with retailers.

“In light of these figures, we also reiterate our call for retailers to report every incident to ensure that retail crime does not go underreported. Convenience stores are at the heart of our communities and their safety and concerns for their livelihoods cannot be ignored.”

Figures from the ACS Crime Survey (2016) show that shop theft alone cost the convenience sector over £43m between 2015-16, despite millions being spent on investment in crime prevention measures over the same period.