Over half of retailers have experienced increased levels of crime in the last two years, with €512m of retail stock stolen in 2011, according to a new survey from Retail Ireland.

The Ibec group has called for a more pro-active and collaborative approach from Gardai and retailers and said those caught shoplifting should bear the full brunt of the law.

In the survey of 33 retail companies, which have over 800 shops and employ over 67,500 people around the country, 52pc said they had experienced an increase in crime in the last two years. Nearly half (49pc) said they have experienced theft of cash from their premises.

Eighty-two percent said they have suffered from shoplifting, with 39pc experiencing theft of stock from employees. Over a third (36pc) have experienced refund fraud and almost half (46pc) have experienced credit card or cheque fraud.

Thirty percent reported having experienced criminal damage. Thirty-three percent said they intend to increase the level of security tagging on items sold in their stores in the next 12 months.

Retail Ireland director, Stephen Lynam, described the findings as shocking, but not surprising. “Retail crime has been on the rise since the start of the recession. Research shows that retailers’ inventory loss caused by crime in Ireland at 1.43pc in 2011, the equivalent value in sales of some €512m.

“While this is significantly lower than countries like the United States (1.59pc) and the Czech Republic (1.50pc), it remains higher than the United Kingdom (1.37pc) and Spain (1.4pc). Ireland ranks an embarrassing 11th out of 22 countries in Europe for shoplifting, with employee theft accounting for over a third of the total; the highest rate in Europe. This is a staggeringly high cost, which has to be factored into retailers’ pricing decisions.”

To help combat the problem, Retail Ireland has made a series of recommendations to Government. These include the full implementation of An Garda Síochána’s Theft from Shops Prevention and Reduction Strategy. The strategy is a proactive, collaborative effort to prevent retail theft by the retail community and the Gardai involving awareness raising, cooperation and specific prevention measures that will, it is hoped, reduce the prevalence of retail crime.

Retail Ireland also proposes the setting up of local retail theft fora involving local Gardai and retailers to allow for the sharing of intelligence and best practice in tackling retail theft on the ground.

The group says retailers should fully inform themselves of the strategy’s recommendations and put into practice those for which they have responsibility for, including provisions around appropriate store lay-outs.

Finally, it recommends that in cases where shoplifting occurs, the full force of the law is brought to bear and adequate penalties are imposed on those prosecuted.