Incidents of shoplifting in UK supermarkets rose by nearly 8% between 2014 and 2017, according to figures gathered by the Press Association (PA).
Police from forces in England and Wales investigated 78,110 shoplifting incidents in 2017, the news agency said, up from 72,423 in 2014.
The British Retail Consortium said shoppers and owners both bore the cost.
A police representative said cutbacks meant they were increasingly unlikely to respond to callouts.
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Ten years of the government’s austerity policies, which have seen officer numbers cut by nearly 22,000, have resulted in policing in England and Wales becoming an almost entirely reactive service. There are simply not enough officers to deal with what is being asked of them.
“The sad fact is that as forces struggle to meet 999-call demand, incidents such as these are increasingly likely not to be attended by officers at all which, as a serving police constable with 26 years’ service, I find quite shocking.”
James Martin, the British Retail Consortium’s crime and security adviser, said: “These figures indicate that, despite the best efforts of our members, criminals are increasingly targeting supermarkets.
“Ultimately, the costs are borne by everyday shoppers and those who rely on retail for their livelihoods.
PA pointed out the figures were “only an indication” of the true extent of shoplifting in UK supermarkets, as 18 forces either only provided partial data, failed to respond, or withheld the information.
Another retail trade lobby, the Association of Convenience Stores, said the figures were a long way from reflecting the true extent of retail crime.
Its chief executive, James Lowman, said: “The numbers of reported thefts pale in comparison to the reality of retail crime. In total, we estimated over 950,000 incidents of theft in convenience stores last year.
“In the convenience sector, more than half of thefts are now not reported due to frustration with police forces not investigating or prosecuting thieves.”