Newly released figures by supermarket supplier Foodstuffs have revealed a nearly 40 percent rise in retail crime across the North Island compared to last year.
Data collected from New World, PAK'nSAVE and Four Square stores found a 38.2 percent increase in retail crime between February and April this year - an average of 37 incidents of retail crime a day.
Chief executive of Foodstuffs North Island, Chris Quin said the 320 local grocers in the Foodstuffs North Island co-operative have "never seen retail crime at these levels".
"It's an extremely concerning trend and it's unacceptable."
Quin said 3285 incidents of retail crime were reported across Foodstuffs North Island from February to April 2023, compared to 2377 incidents in the same quarter in 2022. That's an increase of 38.2 percent.
Burglary, assault, robbery and other aggressive, violent and threatening behaviour are up 36 percent for the same quarter.
And 36 percent of all crime is undertaken by repeat offenders, with the number of reported repeat offenders increasing by 34 percent from 2022.
Shoplifting is up 57 percent year on year for February to April, with 2541 shoplifting crimes reported.
There were 254 incidents that involved a trespass order being breached, and 81 incidents of disorderly behaviour like verbally or racially abusing staff members, intoxication, or inappropriate behaviour were recorded too.
"I see the reports of what our store owners and their people are dealing with on a daily basis, and it's distressing when we have people threatening our team members with weapons and throwing punches," Quin said.
"Every New Zealander has the right to work in a safe and secure environment and not be threatened, assaulted, spat on, yelled at, or racially abused as they go about their working day."
Quin said local grocers, who collectively support 24,000 staff and 2.7 million Kiwis every week, are concerned about the level of retail crime they're experiencing.
"The trend we're increasingly seeing is professional criminals who're stealing brand-specific goods to order. That's not something we've seen before at these levels."
He said Foodstuffs North Islands' security and loss prevention teams have found incidents of coordinated crime involving individuals or groups who steal to order and to on-sell.
And Quin says premium cuts of meat, high-value health and beauty products are the most targeted items for theft.
"In one case, which is currently before the courts, tens of thousands of dollars' worth of non-perishable goods were stolen over a period of months and shipped overseas."
Quin said in a separate case, one repeat offender stole 31 whole eye, scotch, and sirloin fillets over a number of weeks at the value of almost $3200.
"There are three key drivers of retail crime which our security specialists believe are driving most of these crimes. They're saying it's professional criminals who're stealing to order or to on-sell, its often people struggling with addiction and they're stealing to fund or fuel their addiction, and it's groups of youths who're committing destructive acts which they film and then post on social media," he said.
Quin said retail crime climbed in almost every region across the North Island in the February to April quarter, except Hawke's Bay and Gisborne which were devastated by Cyclone Gabrielle.
"There's no postcode for the current wave of crime. It's in the cities, the regions, and in our small communities too. It's right across the North Island."
Quin said rampant retail crime needs to be addressed and should be done through collaboration between Government, Police, community leaders and business owners.
"Our grocers and our co-operative is committed to working together with communities to tackle retail crime."