Rising inflation and roaring shoplifting rates have created a market for stolen food

Rising prices and steep inflation have created a rise in shoplifting which led to the creation of a thriving black market for stolen goods.

shoplifting stolen goods food
© Fertnig/Getty Images
shoplifting stolen goods food

Earlier this year, numbers from the British Retail Consortium showed that shoplifting was at an all time high. Lenient legal repercussions emboldened organised shoplifters which have left a £1 billion hole in the balance sheets of the retail industry. The stolen merchandise, mainly food now sees a thriving black market to which many now turn to fight the prices that squeeze their income.

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The cost of living crisis has driven citizens to get ‘creative’ in sourcing essentials and are now able to turn a blind eye towards the illegitimate means through which these products were acquired.

A perfect storm

Current conditions create a vicious cycle in which the availability of stolen goods and the cost of living crisis drive demand for stolen goods which in consequence pushes thieves to deliver the required supply.

The Guardian spoke to Prof Emmeline Taylor, a criminologist and shoplifting expert at City, University of London who said:

I don’t think hardworking people who are now finding themselves in poverty are suddenly turning into criminals overnight. I think it’s more complicated than that
A lot of people are more willing to buy stolen goods than to actually shoplift themselves because they’re one step removed from it

It can seem more justifiable to purchase stolen property than it is to commit the act. People can more easily rationalise or justify these actions if they do in fact pay for the products and not outright steal them themselves. Or in less realistic terms, it is suggested they pretend that they have no means of telling that what they’re buying is stolen.

With inflation causing prices of essential and nutritious food item prices to skyrocket and with food banks being overrun and only providing a fraction of what some desperately need, self preservation now seems to come before moral quandaries.

How to properly combat the issue

The police and government launched Project Pegasus in October of last year, a program specifically tailored to fight off organised retail crime; it seems though more sophisticated policing is not successfully bringing the crime rate down. The current issue is simply a symptom of an economy that is slowly taking a turn for the worse. According to prof Emmeline, a good way to try and mitigate this issue is to tackle the problems within the Department for Work and Pensionswhich are stopping people for receiving payments they desperately need.

She told The Guardian:

It’s about processes within DWP not working so that people that really need the help can get it.

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