Watch moment shoplifter is caught during theft 'epidemic' investigation

Watch the moment an ITV News investigation into shoplifting caught a thief attempting to make off with stolen alcohol

An ITV News investigation into the so-called shoplifting "epidemic" has caught the moment a thief attempted to steal from a store in south London.

An interview with a store owner in Croydon was disrupted when the thief tried to leave the premises with alcohol, which had not been purchased.

The footage shows the brazen approach which has led some retailers to the conclusion that many shoplifters now feel untouchable.

Filming for the interview took place as ITV News investigated the rise in shoplifting, which one major retailer has labelled as an "epidemic".

A major crackdown on shoplifting is about to be launched, which will involve big retailers paying the police to catch criminals. ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports

Our investigation has found that the battle against store theft is taking on features you would normally associate with a war: special intelligence squads, undercover operatives and surveillance technology.

Speaking to ITV News, the shop owner, Ben Selvaratnam said: "They're so brazen that no one's going to challenge them."

"They're clearly getting away with it, that's what it tells me. So when we're challenging them, it's almost like 'what are you doing, you won't need to challenge us. We're used to just walking in and out'."

ITV News has learned of major new developments designed to turn back the tide of offences, and have gathered images which reveal the brazen nature of this crime.  

Home Secretary Suella Braverman told ITV News there is 'no such thing as a minor crime' when asked about police attendance rates for shoplifting

The new figures suggest that - despite all the efforts of police, retailers and politicians - the crime is still occurring at an alarming rate. 

Explanations of the increase vary. Some store owners blame the cost-of-living crisis for driving people to desperate measures.

But others dismiss such claims. Instead, they say a hardcore of repeat offenders are stealing not for need but for greed - illegally selling off stock to fund their lifestyles and addictions. 

Whatever the underlying causes may be, the facts seem beyond dispute. The latest official figures, from the Office For National Statistics (ONS), show a 24% increase in shoplifting.

How much we reduce shoplifting is becoming a wide ranging public debate - pushing this crime up the policing and political agendas.

ITV News has seen new details of a major police initiative aiming to tackle the problem.

Some 11 major retailers have now agreed to provide funding for a new £600,000 unit, which will target shoplifting gangs.

Sources have also confirmed that the government is poised to publish a new "zero tolerance" plan. 

Retailers have told ITV News that along with the rise in shoplifting comes an alarming increase in threats, intimidation and assaults.

Store manager David in Leeds said: "My time in this store, I've been threatened with knives, razors, hammers. I have been physically attacked. My colleagues get verbally abused, daily."

He added: "There's still nothing we can do about these people until some action is taken and they're removed from the streets, because it's the same people day in and day out."

Shoplifting is causing havoc on high streets across the UK and many people feel the thieves are not just taking goods - they are also removing the sense of safety and security that communities need to thrive.  

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