AN MP says people are stealing to stay alive after Hartlepool saw a 10 per cent rise in offences including shoplifting and vehicle crime.
Hartlepool saw the biggest fall in crime in the Cleveland Police force area last year - but police chiefs are warning of challenging times ahead as savage Government cuts continue to bite.
The number of publicly reported crimes in Hartlepool fell by 220 cases in the last 12 months, which is almost a four per cent drop.
But despite a drop in the number of violent crimes, rape and robberies in Hartlepool in 2013/14, incidents of shoplifting and thefts involving vehicles both increased by around 10 per cent.
Town MP Iain Wright said: “Cases of shoplifting are increasing possibly because people are stealing to stay alive.
“I’m not trying to condone it in any way but it could be that people are that desperate and struggling to put food on the table.”
But Chief inspector Lynn Beeston, Hartlepool’s local policing area commander, said the increase in those crimes could be down to the fact they aren’t as harshly punished as others.
The figures were released on the day Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger revealed his Police and Crime Plan, where he outlined his key priorities for the force over the next year.
Mr Coppinger said it was “a real achievement” for Cleveland Police to continue to cut crime as the Government hacks at the force’s budget.
And after the closure of Hartlepool’s community police office in York Road earlier this year, he admitted the force may still have to prepare for further cuts.
“We are all in the same situation, we all have the pressures and we’re all having to do more with less,” Mr Coppinger told the Mail.
“Across Cleveland, we need to make an assessment of the estate needs across the whole of the area.
“The important thing is we invest in people as opposed to buildings.”
Chf Insp Beeston also admitted the force “couldn’t rule out further closures” of police stations and offices but said there are many benefits of officers working together from the same base.
While Hartlepool saw a 3.9 per cent fall in publicly reporter crime, the drop across Cleveland was just 0.2 per cent.
There were 5,440 incidents of crime reported by members of the public in 2013/14 compared to 5,660 the previous year.
The number of cases of violence which resulted in injuries fell by 111, a 15 per cent drop while incidents of violence without injuries fell from 518 to 454.
Reported rapes fell from 39 to 32 and while the number of other sexual offences increased from 36 to 50, police chiefs put the rise down to historical cases and victims coming forward due to national and local coverage after the Jimmy Saville scandal.
The cases of shoplifting in the town increased by 70 while other incidents of theft rose from 1,051 to 1,095.