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Increase in shoplifters stealing food
Britain’s double-dip recession could be contributing to an increase in shoplifting.
Figures from West Yorkshire Police indicate a 7.6 per cent increase, with 3,144 shoplifting cases between April to June 2011 compared with 3,385 over the same period this year.
In Rotherham, shoplifting was up by 50 per cent with food accounting for a portion of the crimes, leading to concerns that people are becoming so financially desperate they are turning to shoplifting to feed themselves and their families.
Juli Thompson, project co-ordinator for Inn Churches, a project involving several Bradford churches providing shelter for people who are homeless and vulnerable during the winter, says she is aware that in some areas the situation is becoming so desperate people are often shoplifting for food to sell to fund a drink habit caused by their financial predicament.
“I can think of a few people who have been taking food because they are genuinely hungry. We direct them to the food bank but sometimes even that process isn’t quick enough,” she said.
“If you are hungry, you want it there and then, but I still think there is a high instance of shoplifting for food and they will not necessarily eat it, they may sell it to buy drink. The situation is so desperate, it looks like a lot more people are drinking who were not previously drinking, and their drinking has increased.”
Juli has also come across people who had stopped drinking and drug taking but had returned to their habit “because of the desperate situation they are getting themselves in financially”.
In Bradford, there is some help available thanks to organisations such as food banks which are experiencing increasing demand.
Through her work, Juli has seen food parcels double compared to last year. Those seeking meals at the city’s drop-ins have increased by a third, she says.
The situation was eased in March and April through a grant from Bradford Council via the Warm Homes Healthy Bodies scheme funded by the NHS, but Juli fears the situation will get worse.
“That was a fantastic project because it meant I could go round and give local food drop-ins £500 in food,” explains Juli.
She says benefit cuts have led increasing numbers of people to fall into the poverty trap. “We do need more food at food banks but that is just going to stop people getting hungry that day,” she adds.
Volunteers working with the homeless hope this autumn’s Harvest Festival celebrations will lead to more donations of food boosting stocks.
Keith Thomson, treasurer of the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank, says demand on food parcels had doubled over the past two years.
“This year, we have been averaging somewhere between 250 to 300 food bags a month, so that is almost ten a day, and that is considerably more than we were doing two to three years ago,” he says.
“It is clear that more people are out of work, more people are stressed, there are all sorts of reasons.”
Sue Clarke, operations manager of The Light church in Bradford which runs The Trussell Trust Food Bank, says: “By far the largest proportion of parcels we give out are single people but we do have families.”
She says many people are seeking food through the organisation due to benefit changes and delays in getting benefits.
The Inn Churches Project is involved in an initiative to raise awareness about the plight of the city’s homeless through its Suits on the Streets sleep-out on November 8.
Juli says the idea is to get local businesses to sponsor their employees to sleep on the street for a night. “It will fund all the services we provide over the winter, but it’s not just about raising money, it’s about raising awareness of the situation and to let everybody know it is everybody’s problem. We should all be working together to sort it out,” she says.
- For more information about the project, call 07935 037885.