Cuba Street Night 'n Day owner Hamish Garrick has people shop lifting from his store every day.
Recently, he caught a person stealing and when he flagged down two police officers he said they told him it was "just not worth it" to arrest the man.
"So now he knows that because it's under $20 of value he's not going to get arrested and he's going to tell all his mates about it."
Garrick is one of hundreds of store owners who are struggling with thieves in Wellington, especially after last year's main Covid-19 lockdowns.
According to police data analysed by the Herald, the number of thefts in the city has slowly, but steadily, increased since 2017.
Last year, like most crimes around the country, it dropped right off but it is on the rise again and numbers now surpass pre-Covid highs, with a high of nearly 400 in May.
In a statement, police said officers made decisions on whether to prosecute on a case-by-case basis.
"There are always a number of ways to deal with reported offending, and officers will look at the full picture before determining the most appropriate course of action."
The spokesperson said police recognise the impact retail theft has on business owners, and urge businesses to report incidents to them.
Garrick said customers also don't feel safe when people are drinking outside the store, and some have said they don't come in if people are sitting drinking there.
Police said they "continue to prioritise" the monitoring of the city's alcohol-free zones and educate people about where they can and can't drink in the city.
Garrick believed things were getting slightly better, but said they were still having a lot of issues with drinking and shoplifting.
"It's gotten to the point where I've told my staff not to do anything about it, say something, but not to go up to anyone because we get really mixed responses when people are confronted."
Some people, he said, even respond with death threats.
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said there had been an increase in crime and assaults in stores across the country, particularly in Auckland and Wellington.
"We are seeing a big increase in violent crime in central cities, it's not just Auckland, it's also Wellington, but it's part of a much bigger picture of violence, antisocial behaviour and general nastiness we are seeing in stores right through the country."
Earlier this year hundreds of Wellingtonians took to the streets to rally against sexual violence and call for safer streets in the capital.
And last month mayor Andy Foster apologised over the handling of a decision to ditch a volunteer CCTV camera base watching over the city's nightlife district.
In a statement, Wellington City Council community service manager Jenny Rains said the city's hospitality industry, retailers, and police had come together to launch a social contract - the Pōneke Promise - in response to safety concerns in the CBD.
"The Pōneke Promise was launched with the opening of Te Wāhi Āwhina, a community support base on Manners St, opposite Te Aro Park. This space is helping make social services and local assistance more accessible for people who live in the central city."
Since its opening, Rains said there had been a noticeable change in the area, and members of the central city community had echoed this.
Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said he met with the Police Area Commander earlier in the year about crime in the central city to discuss the police approach and offer whatever support he could.
He said he was "very supportive" of the Pōneke Promise which has been signed up to by the council, the Greater Wellington Regional Council, police and the city's hospitality and retail sectors.
"It has already come up with practical solutions like better lighting in the central city and more bus services."
As the local MP, he said he wanted everyone to feel safe in the city and his door is always open to anyone who wants to discuss and work on safety issues.