SPIRALLING cases of shoplifting - blamed on the ongoing cost-of-living crisis by police - will be clamped down on to allay workers’ fears over being targeted by criminals.

Police are working alongside worst-hit businesses in the run-up to Christmas, with each of Barnsley’s neighbourhood teams focusing on their respective patch’s busiest retail units.

According to a report, multiple retailers have come forward with concerns about being regularly targeted - and urged the police to better protect shop workers who have reported being assaulted in worst cases.

The shop workers’ union, Usdaw, revealed 65 per cent of its Barnsley members working in retail are suffering abuse from customers.

Almost half received threats and five per cent were subjected to an assault.

The report said: “Nationally and locally we have seen increased demand caused by shoplifting - this was expected with the rising cost of living impacting across a wide proportion of people.

“Locally, concerns have been raised by the retail industry for some time around the impact of organised criminal groups operating regionally and nationally.

“This has had a negative impact on confidence in the police response, despite local operations, engagement and liaison with the retail community.

“Feedback received from retailers identified concerns about attacks against shop workers and staff - there is clearly a requirement for officers to offer advice and reassurance.

“This highlights the importance of ongoing police engagement, alongside patrols and reassurance, which feature in the aforementioned problem-solving plans.

“Plans are in place to hold a networking event with the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and retail representatives, the aim of which is to discuss the current threats and impact of retail crime and work together with an effective plan moving forward.

“Police engagement with businesses and retailers is ongoing with links made in key retail areas.

“Some of the locations have a bespoke plan which is managed by the local neighbourhood teams.

“The plans are reviewed regularly at command and force level and to assist districts with their local plans, the force’s data analysts produce a monthly report highlighting repeat locations, prolific offenders and links to other offending.”

Office for National Statistics figures show more than 11,000 shoplifting offences were recorded by South Yorkshire Police in the year to June - up from 8,596 in 2022.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Retailers are facing unprecedented levels of theft against their businesses at the hands of prolific offenders who are targeting stores repeatedly without fear of reproach.

“These incidents take a huge toll on retailers and their colleagues, so it’s crucial that every incident reported to the police gets investigated.

“The vast majority of theft still goes unreported, as retailers are frustrated at the lack of response and follow up activity from their local police forces.”

However, the number of arrests for theft has fallen by 16 per cent in the last five years, new figures show.

Charge rates for thefts are very low, with just seven per cent of offences with a recorded outcome resulting in a charge or summons in the town in the year to March.

Superintendent Paul Ferguson, from South Yorkshire Police, said: “We are already committed as a force to tackling retail crime and supporting businesses.( “No business deserves to be targeted by shoplifters and thieves, and no shop worker should go to work facing the threat of violence at the hands of these criminals.( “It is important that businesses are made aware of the best ways to prevent shoplifters from stealing in the first place and for us to all work together to combat retail crime and stop thieves in their tracks once and for all.”