Police Cuts Blamed For Crime Surge
Shoplifting and muggings have increased across the UK, analysis of figures shows, amid claims police are ignoring low level crime because of funding cuts.
One area saw an increase of over 30 per cent in shoplifting offences and another over 70 per cent in mugging as forces across England and Wales prepare to publish their latest figures later this week.
Only five forces saw a fall in shoplifting crime in the year between 2016 - 2017, while many saw a rise hitting double figures.
Experts have warned that a decision to introduce a threshold of £200, below which shoplifters will be dealt with in a similar way to those who speed, has fueled the rise.
Organised crime gangs are also reportedly changing their behaviour to target a number of shops to steal items worth just under £200, to avoid being caught.
The Daily Telegraph revealed so-called low level crime is on the rise across London, but a broader analysis of forces across England and Wales shows the pattern also extends outside the capital.
Image Of Shoplifter
Dan Lewis of UKCrimeStats.com, who compiled an analysis using the official figures, said: "The answer to the high expense of investigating low level crime is to invest more in much cheaper crime prevention.
"With no extra resources available, this is just the sort of innovation elected Police and Crime Commissioners should be thinking seriously about.
"The Home Office should not decide top-down what the cut-off value is for investigating crime. Far better for the local Police and their elected Crime Commissioners from the ground up use their discretion, common sense and be held accountable for the results"
Lincolnshire police recorded a rise of 30 per cent in shoplifting offences between 2015/16 and 2016/17 while Cheshire saw a similar increase at 26 per cent.
Shoplifting in Cambridgeshire and Devon and Cornwall rose by 24 per cent and other areas saw a similar rise, sparking concern among experts that police are ignoring the crime, despite warnings from retailers that it can fuel other offending.
Of 44 constabularies in England and Wales, only five saw a decrease in the number of recorded cases of shoplifting, according to official Government figures.
The Met Police saw the largest overall number of reported incidents of shoplifting at 47,939, while West Midlands police recorded over 20,000 and West Yorkshire 18,590.
Experts believe that many cases go unreported because shops do not get the police involved when items are taken.
The figures show there has been a similar increase in incidents of mugging across the country, with Northumbria reporting a 73 per cent rise in the crime and others including Durham and Lancashire posting figures showing an increase of over a quarter in a year.
A spate of recent moped muggings, where mobile phones are stolen from people's hands while they stand on the street have raised fears that petty criminals see mugging as an easy way to make money quickly.
Although there has been a crackdown in some parts of the country, mugging is on the rise in many other areas, with just 15 out of 44 forces reporting a fall.
Image Of Mugging On A Moped
Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs select committee, said community safety is at risk when forces do not have the man power to deal with low-level crime.
The Labour MP said: "It is clear that the police are increasingly overstretched - with neighbourhood police disappearing from many areas, budgets being squeezed, and changing patterns of crime.
"As a result some kinds of crime are increasingly not being dealt with at all and that is really damaging for communities and for the sense of law and order or public safety. If low value crimes are ignored, the danger is that crime grows.
"Communities need to know that police have the resources to cover the basics and that criminal activity won’t be ignored or allowed to get worse."
It came as it emerged that volunteers in Essex have begun patrolling the streets in Basildon and Wickford to break up gangs, deter violence and stop vandalism amid concerns police are overwhelmed.
One of the founders of the Wick Patrol Group said: "Since we've been in existence we don't seem to get the regular burglaries and break-ins and the community feels safer knowing we are out there patrolling.
"In my view this is the direction communities are having to go in because the police have become very reactive to crime rather than proactive."
A spokesman for Essex Police however urged locals not to take the law into their own hands and asked them to join an official initiative.
The largest increases in shoplifting are in Lincolnshire and Cheshire
Top ten largest increases in shoplifting incidents between Dec 15-Nov 16 and Dec 16-Nov 17 (%)
Five areas saw falls in shoplifting over last year