'Stealing to eat' cases increase as austerity bites

From Global development | The Guardian Fri Jan 25 2013, 11:05:25

Charities and police report rise in people shoplifting for groceries such as baby milk and food

The data may still be sketchy and the evidence largely anecdotal, but there are signs of an austerity-era shoplifting phenomenon: more people stealing to eat because they cannot afford basic groceries.

Teenage asylum seeker Amine Ahnini was almost destitute when he stole a sandwich from Sainsbury's last year. Ahnini, who is not allowed to work, had £35 a week for food, clothes and travel, and said he would often go for one or two days without eating.

But it is not just asylum seekers driven to desperation thefts. Charities and police say that as living costs rise and incomes shrink, "stealing to eat" is increasing and the shoplifter demographic is widening. Officers say food shoplifters can be mothers struggling to feed their children, or hungry pensioners. In many cases they have no criminal record. The rise is more marked in deprived areas.

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