Shoplifting and car theft jump to pre-pandemic levels

Shoplifting and car theft in NSW have surged, returning to pre-pandemic levels after a two-year decline.

Shoplifting increased by 17 per cent while car theft jumped by 23.7 per cent over the past two years, according to a NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research report published on Thursday.

Most offences have bounced back after the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns stymied crime rates, but the rates for retail and car thefts have rebounded the fastest.

Executive director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics Jackie Fitzgerald says this could be influenced by cost-of-living pressures, but there is no definitive correlation.

"It is not out of the question that the retail theft result is related to cost-of-living pressures," she told AAP.

The most commonly stolen item is alcohol, followed by clothing, then food.

"It's not all motivated by the necessities of life, it's the desirables,'' Ms Fitzgerald said.

"But people can still be motivated to steal those things if they are finding it hard to make ends meet."

In the 12 months to December, NSW recorded more than 22,000 shoplifting incidents, with the largest rises in Sydney's eastern suburbs (up 53 per cent), the Northern Rivers region (up 50 per cent), and southwest Sydney (up 46 per cent).

In the same period car theft was highest in Ryde in Sydney's northwest (up 65 per cent). The second highest was in the Northern Rivers Grafton region (up 46 per cent), with the NSW Riverina (up 40 per cent) third.

Despite the downward trend across nine of the 13 different offence categories, violence against women has grown overall.

Incidents of domestic violence-related assault were up three per cent, while sexual assault increased by seven per cent.

Ms Fitzgerald says it is difficult to pinpoint the causes of the surge.

"It's hard to disentangle the potential for increased reporting from the potential for increased prevalence or offending behaviour," she said.

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