Cost-of-living crisis 'a challenge' for policing

Police officers should use “discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute desperate shoplifters amid rising poverty levels, according to the new HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

May 19, 2022
By PA Media
HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke

Andy Cooke told The Guardian that petty crime fuelled by the cost-of-living crisis would pose a challenge for policing, as inflation hit a 40-year high in April.

Mr Cooke told the newspaper: “I think whenever you see an increase in the cost of living or whenever you see more people dropping into poverty, I think you’ll invariably see a rise in crime. And that’s going to be a challenge for policing to deal with.”

Speaking about his advice for officers, Mr Cooke added: “What they’ve got to bear in mind is what is the best thing for the community, and that individual, in the way they deal with those issue. And I certainly fully support police officers using their discretion – and they need to use discretion more often.”

Mr Cooke told The Guardian he was not “giving a carte blanche for people to go out shoplifting”, but wanted officers to ensure cases were “dealt with in the best way possible”.

He added that he hoped to pull the current six per cent charge rate for recorded offences up to 20 per cent, and to ensure every burglary victim should receive a visit from police.

Mr Cooke has worked in policing since 1985, including as chief constable of Merseyside Police until taking over as HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary from Sir Tom Winsor in April.

His comments were disputed by Policing Minister Kit Malthouse who told Times Radio the “cost of living problems people are facing are very difficult for households up and down the land, that does not necessarily mean they’re going to turn to crime”.

“The broad rule is that justice should be blind and I hope and believe that is the principle that sits behind not just the police but the operation of the courts as well. I have to challenge this connection between poverty and crime. What we’ve found in the past, and where there is now growing evidence, is that actually crime is a contributor to poverty. That if you remove the violence and the crime from people’s lives they generally prosper more than they otherwise would.”

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