Benefit reforms caused a spike in offending in a North-East town, according to police offers.
A rise in shop thefts and burglaries of garages and sheds in Darlington was a consequence of benefit sanctioning, according to PC Dave McKenna.
Many prolific offenders say sanctions – when benefits are restricted or completely stopped as a result of adjudged non-compliance on the part of the recipient – caused them to commit more offences.
PC McKenna, of the town’s integrated offender management unit, said:
“This kind of offending is mainly linked to drugs and substance misuse but sanctions are hitting and it’s a concern.
“Because these people often lead chaotic lifestyles, they struggle to meet contracts set down by the Department for Work and Pensions – they’re not likely to be able to get online to do job searches and they really need to be stable before employment.
“Offences like shoplifting go up when people have no money because it’s seen as a victimless crime.”
However, crime is now falling across the town, thanks in part to the efforts of the offender management unit which uses a multi-agency approach to tackle the causes of crime and address issues behind offending.
PC McKenna said:
“By having people here and targeting them in the right way, we can reduce offending and benefit the community by having less victims and less money spent on police, court and prison time.
“These offenders cause a great cost to the community in terms of the public purse and time spent dealing with them.
“Some go to prison and sometimes that’s the right thing but with these types of offences, they don’t go for long and come out in the same situation.
“Many have used drugs since they were young and usually don’t have family support or stable accommodation.”
Temporary Detective Inspector Andy Crowe believes the support offered by the team offers offenders an opportunity for offenders to break the cycle and make a new start.