Good to hear the BBC raising important issues that prick the social conscience of the nation and remind us of the callous indifference that the Tories have for the suffering of the poorest in society.
Last year Labour’s PCC, in Durham, Ron Hogg, launched a new scheme to help those forced into a life of crime by ‘Austerity Britain':
Police going easy on skint shoplifting mums in Austerity Britain
Durham Police Commissioner Ron Hogg said Austerity Britain meant the force was adopting a more ‘humane’ approach to such crime.
As Tory cuts bite into benefits and hit the most vulnerable in society, cops are working with support agencies to prevent some offenders going to prison.
Scheme to help women stealing food to feed families declared a success
Police across the region say food theft has increased in recent years due to pressure on family finances due to economic factors.
Products such as cheese and meat among the most stolen items, according to one report.
One report certainly did say that...but it was the more expensive, and resellable foodstuffs that were being nicked:
Meat and cheese. There is growing interest in the more expensive cheese such as parmesan.
Ron Hogg made an appearance on 5 Live today (19 mins 30 secs) where the presenter, Chris Warburton, introduced him as the PCC from Durham…forgetting to mention, several times, that he was the Labour PCC from Durham….Warburton also stated that police in Northumbria, Derbyshire, North Wales and Devon and Cornwall were making similar noises about shoplifters….failing to mention that they were respectively..Labour, Labour, LibDem…oh and Devon and Cornwall has a Tory PCC…however the Chief Constable has been making a lot of political comments about cuts to his budget…wonder what caught the BBC eye?:
Labour’s Bob Jones, the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, also got in on the act when ‘last month suggested that the increase in shoplifting was partly caused by benefit cuts and job losses, which have pushed “desperate” Birmingham parents to steal food and nappies to feed and clothe their families
Hogg delighted in telling us that ‘Typically with welfare reforms and other such things [society is failing the vulnerable]…in an environment now where payday lenders are thriving, where loansharks are thriving, where foodbanks are thriving…this is in 20th century Britain and it ought not to be happening…and we have here a very unforgiving approach to welfare due to welfare reforms.’
Nothing at all political about this I’m sure…however as the British Retail Consortium tells us that 80% of offenders are at least second time offenders, and others suggest at least 60% may be stealing to feed drink and drug habits, and this scheme is for first time offenders who shoplift specifically for food because they don’t have enough money to eat you might suspect the offenders ‘rescued’ by Ron Hogg and his scheme might actually be far fewer than the impression he gives…no actual figures are mentioned…and there are no links to the police breakdown of the shoplifting figures which Hogg tells us that once you ‘drill down’ into them reveal this horrifying statistic about starving Briton’s forced to steal to live.
That lack of the data means we have absolutely no way of checking the claims made by PCCs whose politics may be colouring their statements to a very great extent.
How much of this rise in crime is due to retailers such as the Coop and Asda who have become more proactive in catching and reporting shoplifters?
How much is the rise due to changes in police reporting procedures and a reclassification of each crime?…..‘For 2013, we estimate that Christmas losses in the UK in the six weeks from mid-November to end-December will be as high as £978 million. This figure is based on a new classification of crimes and a different source of data compared to last year.’
You have to ask why these police forces are highlighting food theft especially when food theft by people literally on the breadline is probably very limited….the biggest problem is organised gangs stealing high value products:
‘A key factor driving the upward trend in the cost of offences is thought to be the impact of organised crime gangs, who are systematically targeting higher value items. Half of fraud is thought to be committed by organised groups.’
You might conclude that the highlighting of food theft is politically motivated when much more serious theft crimes go unmentioned...both Labour politicians, and Police disgruntled with ‘Tory’ cuts, have a reason to keep this ball in the air as we approach an election….and it looks lke the BBC is quietly helping them out.
But should we trust the BBC to get it right?
The Centre For Retail Research thinks perhaps not:
‘Research by retail consultants Global Retail Theft Barometer and Checkpoint Systems has suggested a new wave of middle-class shoplifter is targeting high-end delicacies from supermarkets in order to maintain a lifestyle they could no longer afford.’
When in fact:
‘Nothing irritates us at the Centre more than hearing that we believe that shoplifting by the middle classes is now a significant problem driving retail theft upwards.
The most recent claim about our alleged views on the criminality of the middle classes when they enter a shop can be found on the BBC website page entitled Why Do Well-off People Shoplift? (found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16469928).
This references our findings in the Global Retail Theft Barometer (GRTB), which of course we produce every year.
There are many other press articles referring to our findings on middle class shoplifting.
In fact we have never researched whether the middle classes are stealing more.
We have never ever published anything stating that middle-class crime is driving retail crime, or that prosperous people are shoplifting much more than they did before.
We assume that middle-class crime is on the rise as is crime by other sectors of the community. We do not know and we never have stated that middle-class criminals have become a much bigger problem for retailers than a few years ago.
The story about our alleged opinions started in 2009 as a result of publicity for the GRTB. What we actually said in the 2009 edition of the GRTB (page 25) is shown here:
That is our only reference to middle class shoplifting.’