Sir; I am in strong agreement with Kevin Hawkins that we need tougher penalties to deter serial shop thieves (The Grocer, 2 December p22). By highlighting the vast losses accrued by retailers and the antisocial effects of retail theft it is clear that proactive measures must be taken to deter shop thieves. These measures should focus on educating the general public.

The problem of retail crime is exacerbated by public leniency towards the offence of retail theft. Public attitude towards retail theft is perhaps more distressing than first assumed. Only 35% of Britons would report someone they suspected of selling stolen retail goods to the police. One in four would knowingly purchase a stolen item if the price were attractive. As a result, millions wittingly or otherwise have created a channel for the easy disposal of shoplifted merchandise.