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Breadline Brummies stealing food to feed their children
1 Mar 2014 07:00
Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands Bob Jones says the force is seeing big increases in thefts of essential items like food and nappies
Desperate Birmingham parents are being driven by terrible poverty to stealing food for their children, Birmingham’s police boss has revealed
The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones spoke of his concern over the worrying trend.
Instead of criminals trying to steal high value items Mr Jones revealed that “desperate” people have been snatching bread, milk, meat and nappies.
The force has seen a big rise in the number of shoplifting offences – last year saw 29,104 in the West Midlands – a rise of 11 per cent.
The trend has been called “poverty crime” by the force, which they have admitted is “worrying”.
Mr Jones said the increase in low-level shoplifting could be linked to job losses and benefit cuts.
It follows the Birmingham Mail’s recent Brum on the Breadline investigation which revealed that demand for food parcels at some city food banks had rocketed by almost 50 per cent in a year.
Mr Jones said: “In certain categories of crime we are seeing big increases, particularly around shoplifting.
“This could be put down to levels of unemployment, cuts to benefits and difficulties in coping with the cost of living. We are seeing shoplifting of food in particular.
“The results suggest that the patterns of criminality are poverty-related where people are stealing food and essential items as opposed to higher value good like electrical items or items like perfumes.”
The Commissioner concedes that some of the shoplifting increases in the West Midlands can also be put down to an embarrassing crime figures blunder that was discovered in October 2012.
He added: “We discovered during an internal audit of our figures that bans for shoplifters had actually been incorrectly recorded as intelligence as opposed to crimes, which has led to some big increases. However, even with those increases working through, there is also evidence that increasingly desperate people are turning to criminality.
“We try to identify the causes behind the patterns and we are seeing that this is also happening in other northern force areas with big conurbations like Yorkshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and Northumbria.”
Speaking at a meeting of the Strategic Police and Crime Board, Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Sharon Rowe said the force had seen a four per cent increase in total recorded crime during January.
She added: “January 2013 was very snowy which had an impact on the figures, but January 2014 was still the sixth lowest crime figure ever recorded, which is a good news story.”
At the same meeting Commissioner Jones highlighted “poverty crime” and told the board that total crime is on course to have increased by between 1.5 per cent and two per cent over the last 12 months.
He added: “I have received a recent report about the picture nationally and there are worrying signs both locally and nationally which relate to what I have called the tipping point.
“Taking away any of the preventative work we do could lead us into a vicious circle where we become more responsive than proactive. That is why I have decided to invest and replace staff. If we move away from the excellent preventative work it will be a slippery slope that will cost considerably more in the long run.”