Shoplifting in Hertfordshire jumped 32 per cent last year, painting a "troubling picture" for businesses.

Office for National Statistics figures show there were 8,638 offences recorded by Hertfordshire Constabulary in 2023, up from 6,550 offences in 2022.

Across England and Wales, shoplifting crimes jumped 37% or the highest level in 20 years as 430,104 were recorded in the year to December 2023.

The British Independent Retailers Association said urgent action must be taken to address the "concerning trend" to protect employees and customers.

John Halliday, marketing director for Bira, said the latest figures "paint a troubling picture for independent retailers and businesses across the UK".

He said: "Retail crime not only inflicts financial losses but also poses a grave threat to the safety and well-being of shop staff and customers."

He added a survey by Bira found 35.5% of shop staff had experienced verbal abuse from individuals in their shop. Of those physically assaulted, 70% opted not to report the incidents to the police.

"It's imperative that urgent action is taken to address this concerning trend and ensure the security of both businesses and their employees and customers," he said.

A Hertfordshire Constabulary spokesperson said: “We have seen a rise in shoplifting, unfortunately, and this reflects a national trend. 

“We appreciate the impact shoplifting has on businesses and we’re working hard to tackle this.”

They added that officers hosted “Safer Business Action Days” last month to reassure businesses as part of a national month of action against retail crime.

It had also increased “proactive patrols” in hotspots and that officers regularly visit shops to support staff and deter shoplifters, according to the force.

“Across the county, we’ve seen a number of shoplifters recently handed custodial sentences and we will continue working hard and making arrests.” 

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said the figures were "sadly not surprising".

He added: "Thieves are stealing on a regular basis without fear of apprehension, so it’s essential that every police force in the country takes theft seriously, not least because challenging thieves is one of the biggest triggers for abuse of shopworkers."

The figures are likely to only represent a "fraction of the true picture on shop theft", he said, as the "vast majority" end up not being reported.

Head of Crime Statistics at the ONS Nick Stripe said police-recorded crime in the past 12 months shows "notable" increases in robbery, theft from the person and shoplifting.

The figures show 81,094 robberies were recorded in England and Wales in 2023, up 13% from the year before.

The number of offences involving theft from the person rose 18% from 2022, reaching 125,563 recorded crimes last year.

In Hertfordshire, there were 748 robbery offences in 2023, up from 620 the year before.

There were also 1,024 theft from the person offences recorded last year, a fall from 1,095 in 2022.

Crime and policing minister Chris Philp insisted the figures show "communities are safer and our plan to cut crime and protect the public is working".

He added: "We know there is always more to do. Earlier this month, we set out tough new action to clamp down on shoplifting and through the Criminal Justice Bill, we are giving the police more powers to seize dangerous weapons."