North Yorkshire experiences rise in low value thefts, as austerity bites (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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North Yorkshire experiences rise in low value thefts, as austerity bites
THE county with the lowest crime rate in England is experiencing a rise in shoplifting and minor theft as people steal to support themselves during times of austerity, a chief constable has said.
Statistics from the Office for National Statistics released earlier this year revealed crime in North Yorkshire had dropped by nine per cent in the year up to March 2013.
But North Yorkshire Police say thefts of low value items such as food and nappies is increasing as service cuts and the cost of living crisis impacts on the region.
The Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, Dave Jones, said officers were also noticing a rise in calls to the force control room as police were increasingly being called on to plug the gaps as budget cuts hit.
It has resulted in people turning to the police force for services previously provided by charities and public bodies, which are being withdrawn due to budget cuts.
Speaking to The Northern Echo, he said: “We’re the last resort. We’re open 24/7. The number of calls to our call centre has gone up despite crime and anti-social behaviour going down.
"We’re trying to work out why people are calling us rather than other emergency service and charities, but it’s because of cuts.”
Cleveland Police force has already experienced a rise in what it described as “economically motivated crime” with a six per cent increase in shop thefts and acquisitive crime this year.
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Spittal, of Cleveland Police, recently told members of the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel that the increase in theft of items such as food appeared to be to help people “sustain their own wellbeing”.
Mr Jones said his force is also seeing a rise in similar offences.
"We’re seeing low level acquisitive crime; people are stealing food and nappies," he said.
"We’re seeing an increase in shoplifting and low value thefts, but that tends to happen during austerity. We’re still the safest county in the country to live in and we want to remain the safety county.”
The developments come at a time when police forces across the country are being called on to manage diminishing budgets; North Yorkshire Police has to find £10m worth of savings.
Mr Jones said despite crimes such as shoplifting having a lesser impact on victims than more serious crime, it still required a police response.
“There shouldn’t be a hierarchy of crime but there is, because you have very serious crime that needs to be treated very seriously. But things like shoplifting still need to be dealt with because they cost millions of pounds to those shops.”
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