More shoplifting cases in Bedfordshire were closed without police identifying a suspect than anywhere else in England and Wales last year, figures reveal.
They were among over 1 million unsolved cases of theft across England and Wales, which charity Victim Support said undermines the public's confidence in the justice system.
Home Office figures show Bedfordshire Police closed 15,220 theft probes in 2021 – 80% of which had the outcome "investigation complete – no suspect identified".
This was unchanged from the rate in 2020.
Of the 3,274 cases of shoplifting in the area, 74% were unsolved – the highest nationally, excluding the City of London which has a low resident population.
This compared to an average of 57% across all 42 police forces, and just 34% in Norfolk.
A further 5% of all theft cases in Bedfordshire closed with a suspect identified and the victim supporting an investigation but "evidential difficulties prevented further action", while 9% were closed because the victim dropped the case.
And just 4% resulted in a charge or summons – though this was up from 3% the year before.
A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: “We know that every crime matters and we are committed to providing a good service to every victim who finds the courage to come forward to us.
“Our teams will work wherever we can to identify offenders through investigative opportunities like CCTV enquiries.
“Our Offender Management Unit also works to manage any prolific offenders and recently became the first unit of its kind to be recognised as outstanding by the police watchdog.
“However, we also make no secret of the operational challenges we face here in Bedfordshire, especially due to the fact we are funded as a rural force.
“From things like serious and organised crime and knife crime through to modern slavery, we face major challenges in these areas compared to other forces who are funded like we are.
“Every crime has to be assessed in terms of things like threat, harm and risk, and we have to prioritise our limited resources to tackle the most serious offenders and protect vulnerable people in our society from harm.”
Jeffrey DeMarco, assistant director at the independent charity Victim Support, said: “The fact that a million cases went unsolved last year seriously undermines victims’ confidence in the criminal justice system.
"Theft is a crime that must always be taken seriously by the police, and work must be undertaken to improve these shockingly low success rates.”
In Bedfordshire, 71% of cases of stolen motor vehicles were closed with no suspects identified.
The Home Office said it is aware of the distress and disruption vehicle, bike and other thefts cause.
A spokeswoman said 20,000 extra police officers are being recruited to protect communities to help prevent these crimes.
Across England and Wales, 1 million theft offences were closed without a suspect being found – 77% of all cases.
In London, this was as high as 87%, while in Norfolk it was 57%.