Stealing to survive?

Although crime rates in general have been falling, there has been a surge in shoplifting locally. The Dundee Courier reports: ‘Police Scotland’s Fife Division has reported a 37% rise in theft by shoplifting from shops across the region compared to last year. Officers believe many people are stealing just to survive.’

The link is difficult to prove, of course; a study would need to link convictions with benefit status. In the early 1970s, the ‘four week rule’ imposed sanctions indefinitely for people who failed to get straight back to work in areas deemed to be of high employment. In Scrounging on the welfare (1974) Molly Meacher found that about a third of the people who had benefit stopped had been convicted of their first criminal offence shortly afterwards. Now that we have lengthy, fixed term sanctions in place, there have to be concerns that something similar may be happening.

2 comments

  1. David Webster

    Paul, The link between benefit sanctions and crime has in fact already been proven in a key paper:
    Machin, Stephen and Marie, Olivier (2006) ‘Crime and benefit sanctions’, Portuguese Economic Journal 5, 149–165

    In spite of its place of publication, this paper is about the UK – in fact it was developed from a LSE Centre for Economic Performance working paper.

  2. Paul Spicker

    I’ve found a copy of the paper David refers to at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/19945/1/Crime_and_Benefit_Sanctions.pdf . Although it’s suggestive, I’m not sure that it proves the case. The basic finding is that there was more crime in areas where there were more sanctions. That means that people living in poorer areas were more likely to be the victims of crime (not necessarily the perpetrators). It would be consistent with a different process, if crime and vulnerability to crime are exacerbated by a lack of resources.

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