In the 12 months between September 2022 and September 2023, the UK saw 402,382 shoplifting offences. UK PARLIAMENT via AFP/Jessica TAYLOR

"The time has come to put an end to this blight on our high streets," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

Announcing his new crackdown on shoplifting across the UK, Sunak revealed that the nation has "seen a rising tide of aggressive shoplifting on our high streets and in our town centres" since the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I've been so determined to crack down on crimes that are all too often dismissed as low level or just too difficult to tackle – but which damage communities, destroy lives and bleed the life out of local businesses and high streets," the prime minister added.

In the past 12 months, the UK has spent a staggering £3.3 billion on violent and abusive threats against shop workers, the prime minister revealed.

According to official figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in the year ending September 2023, the UK saw a 32 per cent hike in reported shoplifting offences compared to the previous year.

In the 12 months between September 2022 and September 2023, there were a staggering 402,382 offences nationwide.

Sunak addressed the rising threats against shop workers: "Something has gone wrong when people think they can wander into their local shop and just pick up whatever they want without paying; or when they arrive in threatening gangs to loot and empty shelves of goods; or when they attack shop workers and business owners who are just trying to make a living selling us the things we need."

"Enough is enough. Communities and businesses need the peace of mind that we will tackle this. So today, we're intensifying our efforts."

1. Enhanced Protection of Retail Workers

A recent survey by the charity Retail Trust found that 90 per cent of retail workers have experienced customer abuse.

The survey interviewed more than 1,600 staff members at well-known retailers, including Tesco, H&M and the Co-op.

Chris Brook Carter, the Chief Executive of the Retail Trust, revealed: "Thousands of shop workers are contacting us to say they now fear for their safety, and this is simply unacceptable."

"One person told us they were hit around the head by a shoplifter with a metal basket, another was knocked out cold by an angry customer, and this is on top of the vile insults and threats handed out on an all-too-regular basis."

To further protect retail workers, Sunak declared that the government has implemented "a new standalone offence" that will see anyone who assaults a shop worker face up to six months in prison and be banned from the shop where the assault took place.

The prime minister also announced that the government has launched "new tagging requirements" that target repeat offenders.

2. A Crackdown on Serial Shoplifters

As of 2021, figures published by the government show that the UK has an adult re-offending rate of 24 per cent.

Considering roughly one-quarter of UK offenders return to prison, Sunak said that the crackdown also targets "serial shoplifters."

"The third time they are brought to justice for this unacceptable crime, they should be forced to wear a tag as part of any community order," the prime minister explained. "This is not just a light-fingered crime that causes minimal harm. It puts up prices for customers [and] puts small shops at risk of going out of business."

3. Implementing More Security Technology

With the new incline of abuse against retail workers and shoplifting incidents, companies, including Aldi and Tesco, have implemented body-worn cameras to monitor store staff members.

To monitor behaviours in-store, Sunak said that the government is focusing their efforts "to pioneer new technology to tackle retail crime."

The technical prevention measures include audio headsets that allow colleagues to communicate with each other, body-worn cameras and additional security tags on packaging.

The prime minister also noted that the government is also considering "re-designing shop layouts to make it less easy to steal."