The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called for Her Majesty’s Court Service’s month long crackdown on unpaid fines, which begins today, to become permanent.

More than 170,000 Penalty Notices for Disorder (PND) were issued in England and Wales 2009. More than a quarter of those - over 48,000 - were for retail theft but only 51% were paid.

The BRC wants to cut retail crime by making PNDs a greater deterrent, which it says requires proper enforcement.

The trade body’s latest annual crime survey showed a rise in the value of goods stolen from shops and called for an increase in commitment from law enforcers to tackle the problem. Retailers have increased their own spending on crime prevention to £210m a year.

BRC director of business and regulation Tom Ironside said: “The Ministry of Justice has proposed a greater use of fines, but for that to work it is crucial they act as an effective deterrent. Letting offenders get away with not paying fines discourages the police and retailers themselves, who need to have faith in the system.

“Retailers would like to see unpaid penalty notices tackled by a national enforcement unit with powers to take money by other means, such as from benefits or salary payments.”