Shoplifting of food in Kent increases by 15%

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image captionKent Police refer some shoplifting offenders to food banks or social services

The number of cases of food shoplifting in Kent increased by 15% last year, according to police figures.

Across the county there were 3,110 thefts, compared to 2,699 in 2012.

The highest rise was in Swale with 62%, followed by Tunbridge Wells with 44% and Thanet with 38%. The highest number of offences was in the Medway area.

Kent Police said food was stolen for personal gain or need and discretion was used to refer offenders in distress to food banks or social services.

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

Only two districts reported a drop in the theft of food from shops last year - Ashford and Medway.

'No other choice'

Economist Dr John Glenn said statistics showed families were struggling to balance feeding themselves with rising food prices against inflation.

The senior lecturer in economics at Cranfield School of Management, in Bedford, said it was important to separate acts of criminality from people who were "truly in economic distress" because of their household budgets.

David Iduwo, who runs a food bank in Gravesham, said often some people were left with "no other choice to steal food rather than to see their children go hungry".

He added: "People in desperate situations end up doing desperate things.

"Crime does not solve problems... there is help out there, and people should look for that help."

In a statement, Kent Police said: "Shoplifting is a crime and Kent Police will always seek justice for the victims of crime.

"Resolutions include a caution, restorative justice or prosecution through the courts depending on the circumstances of the case."

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