Police prepare for summer of chaos amid fears of civil unrest over cost-of-living crisis 

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Police forces across Britain are gearing up to tackle increasing civil unrest this summer as the cost of living crisis begins to bite.

Though there is no ‘specific intelligence’ about disorder, policing officials and chief constables are expecting a rise in crime and aggressive behaviour due to the growing frustration over spiraling prices, according to a police source cited by The Times.

‘It’s already going to be a busy summer with the Platinum Jubilee and Commonwealth Games, plus the normal sporting events and festivals,’ the sourc said.

‘We know historically that where the economy suffers, acquisitive crime goes up and there is more potential for unrest.’

Police forces are said to be assessing their capacities to offer ‘mutual aid’ – sharing officers between forces to tackle high-risk events and major incidents of civil unrest. 

It comes as Martin Lewis told ITV that families in Britain are slipping into poverty and implored the government to combat rising prices to avoid this.

The money saving expert told Robert Peston’s ITV show: ‘The government needs to get a handle on it, and they need to get a handle on it quickly. They need to listen and they need to stop people making choices of whether they feed themselves or feed their children.

‘We are in that now. We used to have a relative poverty condition in this country and we are moving to absolute poverty, and we cannot allow that to happen.’

Police arrive on the scene as activists from Just Stop Oil target a Shell Petrol station on the M25 motorway on April 28, 2022 in Cobham, England

Police arrive on the scene as activists from Just Stop Oil target a Shell Petrol station on the M25 motorway on April 28, 2022 in Cobham, England

Police forces across Britain are gearing up to tackle increasing civil unrest this summer as the cost of living crisis begins to bite

Police forces across Britain are gearing up to tackle increasing civil unrest this summer as the cost of living crisis begins to bite

Martin Lewis told ITV that families in Britain are slipping into poverty and implored the government to combat rising prices to avoid this. The money saving expert told Robert Peston's ITV show: 'The government needs to get a handle on it, and they need to get a handle on it quickly. They need to listen and they need to stop people making choices of whether they feed themselves or feed their children'

Martin Lewis told ITV that families in Britain are slipping into poverty and implored the government to combat rising prices to avoid this. The money saving expert told Robert Peston’s ITV show: ‘The government needs to get a handle on it, and they need to get a handle on it quickly. They need to listen and they need to stop people making choices of whether they feed themselves or feed their children’

Meanwhile, supermarket bosses have warned the cost of living crisis has already sparked a boom in ‘first time’ shoplifters.

Thefts have soared since the beginning of the year and are continuing to increase in the wake of price rises caused by the war in Ukraine which have left many consumers struggling to make ends meet.

As a result, retailers say theft levels are ‘off the charts so far this year’ according to analysts as well as anecdotal evidence from supermarket bosses to their trade journal, The Grocer.

The magazine said: ‘Store managers have told The Grocer of higher crime rates as they’re noticing new first time shoplifters as opposed to the usual suspects.’

Professional shoplifters tend to target high value goods they can sell on, such as alcohol, razors and other items but a new breed are stealing even the cheapest of products from the shelves, said The Grocer.

It added: ‘One store manager reported shoplifting starting to rise across everyday and low-value items ‘that you’d find in your weekly basket’ in contrast to the more regularly targeted luxury, high-cost items.’

Retail analyst, Bryan Roberts, of Shopfloor Insights said: ‘The situation is definitely getting worse’ and said the crime rate was ‘off the charts’.

Some shops have reintroduced the one-way entry and exit points that were around during Covid to help socially distance customers but are now there to make it easier to track who comes in and out.

Others have beefed up security in terms of personnel and/or CCTV cameras.

Thefts have soared since the beginning of the year and are continuing to increase in the wake of price rises

Thefts have soared since the beginning of the year and are continuing to increase in the wake of price rises 

Andy Cooke, the new policing watchdog, risked the wrath of retailers as he suggested officers should weigh up whether it was best to haul those who steal to eat before the courts

Andy Cooke, the new policing watchdog, risked the wrath of retailers as he suggested officers should weigh up whether it was best to haul those who steal to eat before the courts

One store boss told The Grocer: ‘The other day we stopped a pensioner who was trying to steal things like washing powder and shampoo. With the cost of living, people are going to have to start making choices.’

Food poverty expert and Ulster University senior lecturer Dr Sinéad Furey said this was ‘not a new phenomenon’.

She said: ‘We have seen this before in previous times of austerity or economic downturn.

‘The return of ‘stealing to eat’ instead of being able to ‘afford to eat’ is yet more proof that we need effective policy solutions that put sufficient income in people’s hands in a dignified way so that poverty and resorting to crime do not become mainstream means of securing the most basic essentials of living.’

Research by the Food Foundation showed in April 7.3 million UK adults skipped meals, reduced meal size or went without food for a day due to costs.

Andy Cooke, the new policing watchdog, advised police to use their ‘discretion’ to make sure such matters of law enforcement are ‘dealt with in the best way possible’

Andy Cooke, the new policing watchdog, advised police to use their ‘discretion’ to make sure such matters of law enforcement are ‘dealt with in the best way possible’

Shore Capital analyst, Clive Black, said the ‘temptation to shoplift is likely to grow for some’ as prices rose.

He added: ‘More straitened times bring a greater risk, and in some cases, need, for shoplifting, which is a notable problem for shopkeepers, especially since the police are disinterested participants, despite stores paying extortionate rates.

‘The government shows little real interest in such matters whilst the courts and penal system cannot cope with serious crime never mind more mundane matters such as thieving from a store.

‘It is a symptom of a failed system, sadly. So, within limits, shopkeepers have to try and control matters.’

The reported ‘rise’ comes as police officers were told in the last week to use their ‘discretion’ when deciding whether to prosecute shoplifters amid the cost of living crisis.

Andy Cooke, the new policing watchdog, risked the wrath of retailers as he suggested officers should weigh up whether it was best to haul those who steal to eat before the courts.

The Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary warned the rise in cost of living would ‘trigger an increase in crime’.

However, he advised police to use their ‘discretion’ to make sure such matters of law enforcement are ‘dealt with in the best way possible’.

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