Shoplifting costs the retail industry millions of pounds each year It was hoped the threshold would save the courts time and money on cases, but it is feared that it has led to the effective decriminalisation of shoplifting.Organised gangs of shoplifters are thought to be exploiting the system by travelling around the country and hitting multiple stores, while always remaining careful to stay under the £200 threshold.But the cost to the businesses is often passed onto shoppers in the form of rising prices.James Martin, crime and security adviser to the British Retail Consortium, said: “These figures indicate that, despite the best efforts of our members, criminals are increasingly targeting supermarkets.”Ultimately, the costs are borne by everyday shoppers and those who rely on retail for their livelihoods.”We acknowledge the difficult resourcing and prioritisation decisions which police forces face, but it is clearly time that every police force gives retail crime the strategic priority it deserves.”Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “The numbers of reported thefts pale in comparison to the reality of retail crime. In total, we estimated over 950,000 incidents of theft in convenience stores last year.“In the convenience sector, more than half of thefts are now not reported due to frustration with police forces not investigating or prosecuting thieves. Some police forces have introduced arbitrary thresholds below which they no longer investigate thefts, ranging from £100 to £200. Shoplifting offences are on the rise following the introduction a £200 threshold before criminals are pursued.Figures obtained from 25 police forces across England and Wales suggest there has been at least a seven per cent increase in the number of offences reported by supermarkets over the past four years.Officers were called to investigate more than 78,000 shoplifting incidents in 2017, up from just over 72,000 in 2014.The figures also suggested a rise in the number of pick-pocketing incidents at supermarkets, where shoppers have their purses and wallets stolen by opportunistic thieves.But the true scale of the problem is thought to be hidden because many smaller stores do not bother to report shoplifting offences because they have no faith that anything will be done.Last year the Telegraph reported how retailers were angry at the introduction of a £200 threshold for shoplifting offences. “Adopting these thresholds effectively prices small stores out of receiving any response to thefts against them, and publicising these policies encourages more theft and gives the impression of these offences being decriminalised. “Challenging offenders in store often leads to violent incidents which have a huge personal impact on retailers and shopworkers. Only Government action can break the cycle of more theft, violence, inadequate police response and ineffective sanctions.”John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation acknowledged that shoplifting was not a priority crime for stretched forces.He said: “These figures mirror the increase seen in many other types of crime. And, although they may not be considered the most serious of offences, it is important those responsible are not allowed to do as they wish without the fear of being caught.”The reality is that officers can be tied up, sometimes for hours dealing with shoplifters, preventing them from answering other 999 calls which may be more urgent. It’s all about priorities.”He went on: “The sad fact is that as forces struggle to meet 999-call demand, incidents such as these are increasingly likely not to be attended by officers at all which, as a serving police constable with 26 years’ service, I find quite shocking.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Most hard pressed police forces will only now dispatch an officer to investigate if there has been a threat of violence against a member of staff.The £200 threshold was introduced as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and means anyone accused of “low value shoplifting” no longer has to attend court and can plead guilty by post in the same way as a speeding motorist.