Politicians are calling for action on shoplifting following a 17% rise in reports, with Kent proving to be a hotspot.
Councillors say the crime is costing local economies dear.
In a motion to be discussed on Thursday, Liberal Democrat members at Kent County Council have called for a comprehensive review of the problem’s extent and what is likely to be done.
Cllrs Chris Passmore and Richard Streatfeild say shoplifting is not a victimless crime with shopkeepers having to jack up prices by 10% to cover their losses.
Their paper to go before the council states: “Shoplifting is highly costly for communities, businesses, and the economy. Business owners face increased financial pressures, as well as inconvenience and loss of stock.
“Moreover, small business owners are citing the impact on their physical and emotional health.”
Kent Police recently cited that between 2021 and 2023 charges have risen from 1,538 to 1,954 (21%) against Office For National Statistics (ONS) suggesting a 17% year-on-year increase of shoplifting reports.
ONS figures also show that in Kent between 2022-23, 6.8 shoplifting offences were recorded per 1,000 population compared to the national average for England and Wales of 5.7. In Surrey, the rate was just 3.3.
The Lib Dem motion states: “This council acknowledges increasing levels of shoplifting in Kent and the financial, emotional and health impacts this may have on business owners and employees.
“Across the UK, more than 80,000 cases of theft from shops come before the courts and the public faces increased costs as a result.
“Research shows that some smaller businesses are forced to raise prices by up to 10% to cover the costs of shoplifting.”
It recommends KCC leader Cllr Roger Gough writes to “the relevant agencies to ascertain the full extent of shoplifting in Kent, and its impact on businesses and employees”.
They suggest consultation with the Kent Community Safety Partnership to determine how “best KCC could assist in signposting advice and guidance for business through the authority’s communication channels”.
The members have also recommended the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel seeks further assurance from the Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, on the police’s response to the issue of shoplifting.
Mr Scott said: "The solution to this is not exclusively with policing. One of the key factors that drives these crimes is drugs so we need to continue to be robust about drug use and drug-dealing, not decriminalising it.
“Policing is working with retailers nationally to identify the organised groups who are involved with it to assist local forces with arresting offenders.
“And I’m pleased to see that locally, Kent Police is arresting and charging more people.”