Stevenage has the 13th highest number of shoplifting offences of any town in the UK with one in 82 people committing offences, a new study suggests.

In a nationwide survey of the crime – based on police data carried out by online savings firm – Stevenage has the 13th highest shoplifting rate.

The ranking is calculated from the number of incidents as a percentage of the population in England and Wales, and equates to one incident reported for every 82 people in Stevenage. It also has the highest rate of any town in Hertfordshire.

According to the study, there were 1,055 shoplifting incidents reported for the Stevenage area during 2016, which was up 8.2 per cent on the 2015 figure of 975.

Stats released by Herts police showed a slightly lower number of crimes at 745 for 2015 and 854 for 2016, but this equates to an increase of 15 per cent.

The study found big supermarkets like the Asda in Monkswood Way and the shopping areas around The Forum and Swingate were the worst affected areas in town.

Linda Firth from said: “Shoplifting doesn’t just affect the retailers, it also affects consumers as the losses are typically recouped through higher retail prices.

“With such a high portion of the population already struggling to make ends meet, this could have a significant impact on budgets.”

Inspector Simon Tabert, who looks after policing in the town centre, said the large numbers of big stores in Stevenage does attract criminals, but he believes the police are winning the war against the thieves.

He said: “In Stevenage we have a large number of big superstores, which attract shoppers from the surrounding areas and not just from within the town itself. Police use a wide range of initiatives to tackle the issue of shop lifting including our Shop Watch Scheme, which allows shops to keep in constant contact with each other and share information about possible offenders, as well as regular liaison with key stores regarding current shop lifting trends and product placement to deter shoplifting.

“We also utilise CCTV to trace possible offenders through our social media the local press. Last year our detections for shoplifting were up by 18 per cent and we aim to continue this trend.”

The study shows the increase in the crime this year appears to reflect national trends with the total number of shoplifting incidents in England and Wales during 2016 up 7.6 per cent on the previous year.

The highest shoplifting rate was calculated for the borough of Westminster with an average shoplifting rate of one crime for every 58 people.