Police have backed a scheme that will make it easier for shoplifters amid the cost of living crisis.
A Tesco store in West Derby, Liverpool, which is losing £50,000 a month to thieves, will be the first to launch the pilot scheme amid rising inflation and it is hoped it can be rolled out nationwide .
Those caught in the act of stealing essentials like food will not be caught by the police.
Instead, they will be referred to local food banks and debt counseling services by Tesco security staff according to the Mirror.
Just a few months ago, the head of a police watchdog told officers they had to use their “discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute shoplifters amid a soaring theft rate earlier this year.
Suggestions not to act on the theft have previously prompted a hostile response from the retail industry which called it ‘irresponsible’.
A Tesco store in West Derby, Livepool, which is losing £50,000 a month to thieves, will be the first to launch the pilot program to go easy on shoplifters (stock image)
Labor MP Ian Byrne, who came up with the Tesco idea, told the Mirror he was not giving people ‘carte blanche’ for shoplifting and wanted it to spread to everything the country.
He said: “This kind of theft is an act of desperation. We have plenty of moms and dads who would never have considered shoplifting. What I want is to stop the criminalization of the working classes.
Merseyside Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell also told the Mirror: ‘No one in our society should need to steal to eat or support children.
“It is a damning condemnation of the legacy of this government. Our goal is always to prevent crime. We are already engaged with the retail industry and community safety partners to try to ensure vulnerable people get support.
“West Derby Tesco will train guards and staff to spot signs of desperate theft and respond accordingly. Signs will be posted around the store giving details of support services.
Those caught in the act of stealing essentials like food will not be caught by the police. Instead, they will be directed to local food banks and debt counseling services by Tesco security staff (stock image)
Andy Cooke, the head of the new police watchdog, suggested in May that officers should assess whether it was best to drag those who steal to eat to court.
Mr Cooke, a former Merseyside police chief who took over as head of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in April, said: “The impact of poverty and the impact of lack of opportunity for people lead to increased crime.”
He told the Guardian that forces across England and Wales were adept at managing the tensions and dynamics of their communities, adding: “What they need to bear in mind is what is the best thing for the community, and that individual, in how they deal with these matters.And I certainly fully support police officers who use their discretion – and they need to use their discretion more often.
Past economic recessions have led to an increase in crimes such as theft. Mr Cooke added. “That’s one of the great things about being a police officer,” he said. “You are allowed to make your own decisions in relation to all these matters. It’s not new.
His comments echo Donna Jones, who leads serious violence and victims for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.
She suggested last year that persistent shoplifters should be spared jail time and raised the idea that retailers could pay for the rehabilitation of drug offenders who steal to feed their habit.
The Gendarmerie’s chief inspector also said in May that officers should use “discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute shoplifters amid the crisis that has angered the industry. retail (stock image)
But Tom Ironside of the British Retail Consortium dismissed the idea, saying: ‘It is irresponsible to suggest that shoplifting should not be treated seriously. When confronted, shoplifting often results in violence and abuse against retail staff, many of whom are women, and it costs retailers £2.5billion a year, which includes the cost of the actual flight as well as security measures.
He said last September: “The law enforcement response is already poor, with only 6% of the 455 daily incidents of violence and abuse brought to court.”
Trade newspaper, The Grocer, also said in May that retailers had told them theft levels were “off the charts so far this year”.
The magazine said: “Store managers have informed The Grocer of higher crime rates as they notice ‘new first-time shoplifters’ as opposed to ‘usual suspects’.
Professional shoplifters tend to target high-value products they can sell, such as liquor, razors and other items, but a new breed is stealing even the cheapest products from the shelves, said The Grocer.
He added: “A store manager reported that shoplifting was starting to increase among everyday and low-value items ‘you’ll find in your weekly basket’, as opposed to luxury and high-cost items. raised more regularly targeted.”
Retail analyst Bryan Roberts of Shopfloor Insights said: ‘Things are definitely getting worse’ and said the crime rate was ‘off the charts’.
Cops told to think carefully about prosecuting shoplifters who steal to eat
Some stores have reintroduced the one-way entry and exit points that existed during Covid to help customers socially distance, but are now there to make it easier to track entries and exits.
Others have increased security in terms of personnel and/or CCTV cameras.
A shop boss told The Grocer: ‘The other day we arrested a pensioner who was trying to steal things like washing powder and shampoo. With the cost of living, people are going to have to start making choices.
Dr Sinéad Furey, a food poverty expert and senior lecturer at Ulster University, said this was ‘not a new phenomenon’.
She said: “We have seen this before in previous periods of austerity or economic downturn.
“The return of ‘stealing to eat’ instead of being able to ‘afford to eat’ is further proof that we need effective policy solutions that put people in the hands of sufficient income in a dignified way so that poverty and poverty resort to crime do not become traditional means of securing the most basic essentials of life.
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