POLICE chiefs have blamed savage welfare cuts for a sharp rise in shoplifting figures.
Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Durham, claims people are “stealing to live” after a 35 per cent rise in his force area in shoplifting cases.
Despite not having direct evidence to back up his claim, Mr Hogg says people are turning to crime as they do not have enough money to feed themselves after the Government’s welfare reforms.
He said: “Shoplifting is up 35 per cent year on year and an awful lot of people are stealing to live.
“We predicted this would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.”
Mr Hogg’s claims were echoed by Barry Coppinger, the PCC for Cleveland, after a 7.3 per cent hike in his force area.
He said: “Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black market to buy food and items they can’t afford.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said there was no evidence linking reforms to increased crime.
He said: “Ending the spare room subsidy was absolutely necessary in order to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control, returning fairness to the system and making better use of social housing stock.
“These rules already applied to the housing benefit claimants in the private sector – introduced by the previous Government.”
A recent DWP report found 522,905 households were affected by the so-called bedroom tax by last August and nearly a fifth of claimants had registered an interest in downsizing.
More than half of claimants had cut back on household essentials, a quarter had borrowed money and three per cent had taken pay day loans.
Mr Hogg and Mr Coppinger advised people who have found themselves struggling financially to use credit unions.
Hartlepool Credit Union can be contacted on (01429) 863542.