Shoplifting of food in Essex rises by 20%

A shoplifter Southend was the police district with the largest rise in incidents of food shoplifting

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The number of cases of food shoplifting in Essex rose by about 20% last year.

Figures from Essex Police show there were 2,752 thefts in 2013, compared to 2,290 in 2012.

Basildon, Colchester and Harlow saw particularly high percentage increases, with Southend showing the highest increase at 44%.

A food bank charity urged anyone who was struggling to come to them for support so they did not need to resort to stealing.

The figures were released following a Freedom of Information Act request by BBC Essex.

'Some sympathy'

Duncan Craig, manager of Harlow food bank, said: "Clearly there's an underlying difficulty here of people seeking solutions to some crisis in their life and resorting to food theft.

"We get referred clients who have been apprehended and prosecuted for food theft and in order to help them through the crisis, we support them so that they don't reoffend."

Ian Wicks, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "We've got some sympathy, but theft is theft, so if the business feels that it's a victim of crime and wants to see that person prosecuted, then they should be."

Nick Alston, Essex police and crime commissioner, said: "Some of that food is being stolen to sell, some is being stolen for real need and some is by organised gangs.

"There is no excuse for theft and the police will always take it seriously.

"I do want police officers to use their discretion, but if they find someone in real distress they can refer them to social services or to food banks."

Shoplifting of food offences (not including sweets and confectionery)

Police district 2012 2013 % change

Source: Essex Police

Basildon

303

396

30% rise

Brentwood & Epping

177

171

3% drop

Castle Point & Rochford

197

192

2.5% drop

Chelmsford & Maldon

266

243

8.6% drop

Colchester

209

257

23% rise

Harlow

257

358

39% rise

Southend

305

440

44% rise

Stansted Airport

14

7

50% drop

Tendring

225

310

38% rise

Thurrock

198

219

10% rise

Uttlesford & Braintree

139

159

14% rise

TOTAL

2290

2752

20% rise

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