Hogging The Headlines

Poster for 'I Was a Shoplifter'



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.



Today we learn it’s been a grand success:

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?:

Devon and Cornwall police chief says gaps in funding are going to get worse


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:

The BBC claimed this:

‘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:

quote from 2009 GRTB

That is our only reference to middle class shoplifting.’











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10 Responses to Hogging The Headlines

  1. stuart says:

    i used to work in the probation services a few years ago,not any more thank god. and used to do home visits to do court reports for the defendants. believe me, the very type of shoplifters mentioned in this article who claimed they done it in the name of poverty had in there homes the most hi tech flat srceen tvs.computers,expensive hi fi equipment and other assorted goodys that even anybody on a half decent wage could only dream of.stealing for poverty could be excused post war in the 50s when poverty was a real issue for alot of people,in 2014 this does not exist,shoptlifters steal to order to sell on goods to make a profit for there skunk weed and cider,that is the reality here that they never mention.


    • Demon says:

      It’s quite a clever bit of work for the shoplifters: When eventually caught for the crime they just need to say, like Homer Simpson, “It’s my first time” and as the police are not keeping records of the ones they are letting off they will be free to rob again and again.


    • Thoughtful says:

      You have so many flaws in this post that it’s difficult to know where to begin!

      I suppose that you have some nice things in your home, and that if you were made redundant tomorrow you wouldn’t instantly rush to one of the modern day pawn brokers with them? If I came into your home looking at you as an assessment it would of course be fair for me to assume that you were on far too much benefit money as you could afford such luxury !

      Equally you talk about life in Britain in the 1950s but let me tell you, unemployment benefit was a percentage of what someone paid into the system, so you might end up with 60% of a wage for a time, and it was paid immediately wages ceased.
      When Margaret Thatcher raised unemployment to over 3 million she abandoned the wages link and dropped the unemployment allowance to a level which was insufficient to live on.
      Cameron has lowered it further in real terms until today it is ‘manifestly insufficient to survive on’. Even Iain Duncan Smith has admitted it is impossible to live on it!

      And along comes lefty Dave with his greed ridden mates who have not the first understanding of poverty and living in a budget. They spend more on a single meal out for one than an unemployed person receives to live on for a week! But worse than that, where the safety net used to pick someone up immediately, they have now extended that period to 5 weeks ! That’s not 5 weeks after you leave work, that’s 5 weeks after your notice period ends, it could be much longer. At the same time they won’t begin to pay your mortgage interest until 9 months after it.

      Anyone who types such idiocy as you have is clearly an ignorant bigot without the first inkling of understanding.

      Why don’t you advocate a return to the workhouse? At least they prevented people starving to death, unlike the Tories. We could return to hanging people for stealing a loaf of bread ! Or the Tally man, who came round and made people sell all their goods for a pittance !

      Not that we need a tally man now, because there’s no way an honest person could survive without selling their goods.

      So a more compassionate approach is needed if someone can show that they have been stealing to survive, and the blame needs to be levelled squarely at the Tories and their fat cat Eton cabinet who have no clue of what they are putting people through.

      This is not about the career scroungers, they are obviously alright, this is about the people who try to do the right thing, being shit on from a great height by a government who only sees them as a production unit and then a problem, and a group of bigoted idiots who do a complete U turn in their views when it happens to them.

      We can only hope that it does, and that they learn the meaning of a little compassion.


      • richard D says:

        Any chance you can provide definitive proof of your claim that ” Even Iain Duncan Smith has admitted it is impossible to live on it!” ? And I don’t mean anything twisted out of context, or even a refusal to take the Daily Mirror’s bait…. just a simple link to a speech or interview where he says exactly what you claim ?


    • Seek the Truth says:

      Stuart, it’s always the way. We have a generous benefits system, especially when it’s single mothers that benefit from it. If they and their offspring are going hungry, it’s down to mismanagement of the money that the rest of us give them. I just wish I could get hold of Paul O’Grady to tell him that the ‘poor kiddies’ going hungry in the UK in his political point-scoring Save the Children adverts is not the fault of the current government, or of the austerity measures, but because their mothers don’t know how to look after them properly.


  2. Rod says:

    When we have so many food banks, why are they shoplifting?