This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shoplifters of the World

I just watched The One Show complaining about shops using civil recovery to claim costs back from shoplifters.  According to Sheila Hancock, this is "outrageous" and "the police's job".  She thinks this because Sheila Hancock hasn't the first clue about the reality of shoplifting and what it involves for the police.

Most shoplifters arrested in Blandmore have at least a dozen convictions, and some have literally hundreds.  They are mostly on heroin or crack, and steal to fund the habit because it's a risk-free choice of crime, with two possible outcomes:

(A)  They get away with it, sell the booty and get their heroin/crack.
(B)  They get caught, get arrested, get free food for the night, as much diazepam and methodone as the police doctor can prescribe, go to court in the morning and try again later that day.

It is truly a no-lose scenario.  Moreover, a shoplifting is not always the most straightforward crime.  Usually it is only witnessed on CCTV, and there are gaps in continuity of the evidence. It takes time to build the case and may need referral to the Crown Prosecution Service to charge.  Several shoplifters are detained every day in one 24hr Blandmore supermarket, and they are very often "high maintenance" in custody, requiring increased monitoring for withdrawal or self-harm tendencies.  They need officers to go to pharmacies or their homes to collect prescriptions, just to keep them alive whilst in the police's care.  They get remanded due to their prolific offending, and languish in the traps all weekend consuming tax-payer's money at a staggering hourly rate.

All this, and the likely outcome in court is a drug rehabilitation course to ensure they are prescribed enough free methodone that they don't need to steal for a while, a fine they can't pay, and community work they will claim they are too ill to do.

There must come a point where you simply have so many convictions that you are to be considered a one-person crime wave, and draconian action should be used to quell your offending.  Options might include:
  • Six months in a special drug free prison.
  • Withdrawal of all benefits.
  • GPS tagging to identify you every time you offend, and bar you from certain premises that have simply had enough of you.
In the absence of any hope of even a watered down version of the above, what choice do stores have but to try and claim some compensation back from the few shoplifters they catch who do actually have the means to pay?

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Anonymous A Polis Man said...

1st :)

Crime doesn't pay you know, well unless you've got nothing then as you say you get all the free drugs and food and don't forget sanitary products you could wish for!!

Don't steal don't pay quasi legal extortionate fines, don't pay fight it in court if they can be bothered to even try to prove on balance of probabilities

16 February, 2011 20:19

Anonymous Angry Rozzer said...

Good Post Ellie.

I'm sick & tired of hand-wringers sticking their noses in on subjects they know nothing about.
I have no problem businesses using the civil recovery scheme on these people. The moral of the story is; Don't steal.

On a side issue, I was once pulled up about the low amount of FPN's I was issuing for shoplifters by a SMT loser.
I then pointed out that 98% of the shoplifters I deal with are like the ones you describe in your post & are therefore unsuitable for FPN.
Cue much muttering & stomping off by one annoyed "leader".

That was a good day :).

16 February, 2011 21:01

Blogger kram nodgebor said...

Erm.. Wasn't the point that decent peiple who pay for their goods have been accused by excited security staff, in error, and then been pursued for civil recovery? When they are vulnerable etc they then cough up inappropriately.... And still the scrotes proliferate...

16 February, 2011 23:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erm.. Wasn't the point that decent peiple who pay for their goods have been accused by excited security staff, in error, and then been pursued for civil recovery? When they are vulnerable etc they then cough up inappropriately.... And still the scrotes proliferate...

16 February, 2011 23:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is not much logic in the notion of withdrawal of all benefits from people who have been caught shoplifting. That could make them shoplift even MORE, just to survive. People have to eat and more than likely also pay rent.

They will also need to pay for heating and light. Benefits like Jobseekers Allowance provide just enough money for food and energy bills, with very little left over for anything else.

And how will punishing them, by stopping housing benefit,help in any way to stop those people from shoplifting? They could be made so desperate to meet the rent money to keep a roof over their heads, or to get food etc, that they commit even more serious thefts/crimes just to survive, regardless of any addictions they need to fund.

Stopping or reducing benefits to punish people would make matters worse and is not a solution to change the shoplifters behaviour.

17 February, 2011 00:29

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you might have ended up agreeing with Hancock more than you intended to. As you say, most shoplifters basically have no money, so are never going to be taken to a civil court - so it will never have any real effect on crime levels.

17 February, 2011 08:30

Anonymous Zac said...

I think you'd be surprised at the variety of people who shoplift. They vary from the addicts to families of pikeys or Eastern Europeans doing it professionally to clearly well-off middle class women.

I recently saw two public-schoolgirls, wearing the uniform of their £30k a year school, get nicked by shop security.

17 February, 2011 08:43

Anonymous StillAnon said...

I actually believe that more victims of crime should do this. I'd go as far to say that civil compensation ought to be part of the criminal trial.

17 February, 2011 14:32

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely prison would be cheaper than keep on arresting them?
Especially if for 2nd or 3rd offences we were to offshore them. I bet e.g. Ukraine could look after them cheaply - and we would be providing work in a very poor country.

17 February, 2011 14:53

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

kram - no, there was only one example of someone who SAID she was innocent of shoplifting being pursued for civil recovery, and it did seem odd how the shop had dealt with her. But the rest of the story and Sheila Hancock's remarks were regarding civil recovery in general.

As for the commenter's view that withdrawing benefits or other harsh punishments will somehow make people shoplift more, do you propose that society just goes on subisiding these people, who shoplift NOT to buy food but to buy drugs? Why should society continue to feed them when they are stealing to fund illegal activity? Perhaps they could work to get money for food, like everyone else?

17 February, 2011 14:54

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoplifting is a scourge on society.The shopkeepers face daily aggravation from the quite correctly blogged "no-risk crime".I used to work on a busy high street and saw the same criminal faces every day.It needs a much more radical approach.I say legalise drugs.Give the scum free drugs and they wont have to steal.It will also stop the drug dealers making a fortune from their misery.It could be done as an experiment for a short time and if it doesn't work then we can go back to half-arsed attempts at killing the drug trade.Crime would halve overnight.
Yes I am a PC so I do know a bit about crime.

17 February, 2011 16:08

Anonymous A Polis Man said...

I personally feel that no benefits should be paid in cash, only in vouchers with only certain goods availible to be purchased with them, so no benefits for cigs, super strength lager+cider. Obviously some sort of photo id required to spend the vouchers so no selling them on, any shop keepers taking dodgy ones don't get paid for any they have still to claim and can't take any more in.

This will remove the cash and the excuses from the criminals but allow decent folk who want to work and need help the required support

17 February, 2011 16:34

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I personally feel that no benefits should be paid in cash, only in vouchers"

Easily swapped with the local loan shark/dealer for cash or are/were plastic Milk Tokens and paper Child Benefit Payment name just two methods previously implemented.

17 February, 2011 20:02

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bloggsy....I didn't say that shoplifters shouldn't be punished.

The point that I thought I had made clearly enough, was that stopping their welfare benefits, for food, housing and basic needs, will not help the situation one bit. It could easily result in more crime being committed. When people are desperate and have NOTHING, no money for food, heating, rent, they will be driven to desperate measures just to survive. If the shoplifting is to fund drugs addictions then the sense of desperation will be intense and all common sense will have flown out of the window.

I'm not excusing it, nor justifying it, just understanding why some people would and could be driven to shoplifting to survive each day. I can only have pity for them to have sunk to such a level as a way of life.

If there are convictions for theft, that would be an obstacle to any potential employer taking them on and giving them a chance. A drug addiction would be a double obstacle to employers, especially when there are large numbers of healthy non criminals on the dole.

Those at the very bottom of the heap, for whatever reason they are there, find it very difficult to climb back up again after a fall into a "hole". That hole could be alcohol, drugs, petty crime in their youth. Society sticks them in a "box" and labels them for life, especially if there was a conviction for a crime, even a minor one. Those people can sometimes lose their self respect and all hope of a better life.

The notion of giving ALL benefits claimants vouchers for food etc, is absolutely appalling. Why should those who have recently lost jobs, because of government cuts, and the genuinely sick and disabled be treated like low life criminals who can only be trusted with vouchers? Why should genuine claimants who abide by the rules, be humiliated by having to pay for their shopping in vouchers?

I can recall from history, a certain group of people in Germany approx 70 years ago, who were rounded up and treated worse than paedophile criminal scum and forced to produce their I.D.......That is HOW and WHY the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up by the UN after WW2, lest you forget.....

Those who stereotype ALL people on benefits as "criminal scum", are as bad as the MoP who tar all police officers as "corrupt" Nazi's.

People are human beings, whether they are MoP, drug addicts, or coppers, PC's or top brass. You will find a percentage of the less than perfect human in all walks of life.

18 February, 2011 02:47

Anonymous A Polis Man said...

milk tokens, child benefit books all p[reviously abused, by swapping with dealers/loan sharks, again voucher= no cash only spent with photo id =no usefulness to loan shark or dealer.

All benefit claimants= criminal scum where did I say that?

What I said was "This will remove the cash and the excuses from the criminals but allow decent folk who want to work and need help the required support"

Hard working taxpaying people are paying high taxes and facing job losses because of people who spin the revolving door of the criminal justice system with no consequences.

Vouchers = buying power which can be made into more benefit for society in one of two ways, lower cost or increased benefits to the individual, note there is still no cash for the criminal financier.

Every child carer given £15 pw in vouchers, every disabled person or carer given vouchers, every unemployed person given vouchers, covers roughly half the population more in some places where is the dislocution, where is the ghettoisation, where is minority?

Reducing benefits to those who commit crime will increase the offending, child benefit last one rock/hit/deal so half a day at best, take the cash out of it and at least the voucher has to be spent on stuff the child can use rather than drugs it hopefully won't ever!

18 February, 2011 20:50

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our Farce trialled a scheme, with much publicity, whereby the arrested shoplifter was given a notice by the shop/store that they were banned from entering those premises. Therefore if they returned to steal, they were entering as a trespasser and were therefore committing burglary. Not a lot changed though once they went before the beak so it ended (on a very quiet note). One toerag complained that he had received 'summary justice after being caught stealing from a butchers (he was apparently hit across the face with a frozen leg of lamb, breaking his nose). He continued stealing only not at that particular butchers. On another note, the retail industry claim that more than 60% of in-store thefts are committed by staff who, presumably, are not drug riddled, homeless, recidivists.

18 February, 2011 20:59

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Polis Man makes the assumption and presumption of guilt against any and ALL persons who find themselves having to depend upon benefits to survive.

That is discrimination Mr A Polis Man, and not only is that discrimination, despite the best efforts of NuLabour when they were in power, to regard everyone as "guilty" until proven innocent; We are in fact, according to law, innocent until proven to be guilty in a court of law!

Child Benefit books were NEVER "vouchers" anyway. They were payment order books which the government abolished many years ago. They were a book of weekly payment orders which could be cashed at the Post Office. The vast majority of mothers who had Child Benefit Order Books would have spent the money on their kids.
A SMALL MINORITY may not have done so, but that doesn't mean that EVERY mother in the UK should not be trusted with the cash. Even mothers who are not in receipt of any other welfare benefits, and who work for a living get Child Bbenefit! They need to be able to spend the money as they see fit, on their children.

OK, Milk Tokens were/are "vouchers" that can be exchanged for milk, or were given to the milkman in the days of doorstep deliveries. There is a huge difference between mothers using milk tokens to pay a milk bill and having to use "vouchers" for the weekly shop in Tesco, Morrisons or Aldi. There would be stigma attached to any scheme of "vouchers" to use in shops. It also makes the assumption that ANYONE on benefits cannot be trusted, which is an insult to the majority who have no other option.

You may be unaware that many kids who receive free school meals are picked on and bullied in school, BECAUSE their mother is on benefits. It is the sneering attitudes of people like A Polis Man (and the Daily Mail)towards people on benefits, be they disabled or single mothers, that has whipped up a great deal of hatred and ill feeling within communities towards disadvantaged people who are helped to survive on taxpayers money.

Some victims of the bullying have even DIED as a result of the constant malicious harassment. Many have had their lives blighted and ruined by the sheer nastiness directed at them just because they are disabled or single mums on benefits. There is in this country, a misguided, mean spirited and rather spiteful begrudging attitude towards those less fortunate and in receipt of benefits.

A civilized society looks after those at the bottom of the heap, and allows them a degree of dignity in their unfortunate circumstances, whilst thinking to itself....there but for the grace of God go I.

What is also overlooked by many who rant on about their taxes going to pay for people on benefits, is that people on benefits DO pay taxes in the form of VAT on energy bills, phone and whatever other everyday items the taxman has stuck a VAT charge on.

People are losing jobs because of NuLabour's mismanagement of the country and the economy when they were in power. People are NOT losing jobs via cuts because of a minority of the population who are on drugs and do crime!

A Polis Man assumes that vouchers could be given to "half the population" in some areas and at the same time fails to see that sort of description really does sound like a "ghetto".

I doubt very much that any police officers who became disabled in the line of duty and who then had to rely on state benefits, would enjoy being treated like a criminal who couldn't be trusted with money for their needs and was instead given "vouchers" for their local shops and energy bills etc.

I also doubt very much that any of the police civilian staff who are about to lose their jobs and who may be forced to sign on the dole, would enjoy a "voucher" scheme that would single THEM out in their neighbourhood as "benefit scroungers".

19 February, 2011 03:30

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some establishments around here have obtained Court injunctions requiring named (shoplifting) personalities not to enter their premises. That means that if those banned people do enter the various subject premises, they do so as trespassers...
... and that ups the offence to burglary; the Courts around here have been handing out some rather interesting sentences, and most of the remaining professional shoplifters have moved on to locations that are not as harsh.

20 February, 2011 09:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Why should genuine claimants who abide by the rules, be humiliated by having to pay for their shopping in vouchers?'

I was a serving soldier in BAOR. We received cheap 'petrol coupons' (something about not having to pay German VAT because we already paid UK income tax. I used them all the time and never felt humiliated.

I was a soldier - I had coupons. If I am unemployed - I should get vouchers. Get over it and learn to accept your role in society. Most of the people I deal with don't give a shit that they are unemployed, or see it as humiliating.They think the rest of us are 'mugs'.

Genuine unemployed people would probably welcome vouchers; anything to help them while they try and get sorted out.

21 February, 2011 11:05

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should genuine claimants who abide by the rules, be humiliated by having to pay for their shopping in vouchers?

'Humiliated? How? Just hand 'em over for the food and get on with it. No one in Ruraltown gives a shit about people being unemployed; most of them are!

21 February, 2011 11:07

Anonymous bail bonds henderson nv said...

ADD moment but I can't stop watching the show "The First 48" for some reason. Ok talk amongst yourselves.

23 February, 2011 05:16

Blogger Stressed Out Cop said...

Maybe we should do civil recovery for services in custody - FME springs to mind, with prescriptions and how about interpretor costs.

Plenty of wide screen TV's to be seized - Time to make criminals pay in ways that really hurt them. CJU system doesn't as we all know !

25 February, 2011 14:12

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I accepted my "role" in society a very long time ago Gadget! It's other people who have had a "problem" with it, and that is their problem, and not mine. ;-)

People who are sick/disabled and single parents have the right to be treated with respect and have equal rights in law. Those rights extend to receipt in law of financial support, in the event of sickness, hardship or other difficult situation.

People have the right to manage and budget their finances according to their own needs, which will include buying bread, milk and whatever else they need in between a main weekly or two weekly shop at a supermarket.

There is a huge difference between being given and using vouchers for petrol, as a member of the armed forces Gadget, which as a soldier would have afforded you a degree of respect and status in the community....and in expecting the sick/disabled/single parents/unemployed to use "vouchers" for their food shopping.

It is an impractical and discriminatory concept that just would not work in practice. Out of an individual's personal allowance, they need to juggle cash and budget for food etc, TV liscence, gas, electric, bus fares, clothes, shoes, birthdays and Christmas. The government cannot dictate by means of a "state voucher" how much a person should spend on food etc and where the vouchers can be used.

A voucher scheme would involve a whole new level of costly bureaucracy and administration, for the government and retail outlets, who would be expected to take the vouchers for food etc.
How would they give change anyway if the full amount was not used in one shopping trip?

However, Local Education Authorities have,for a long time used a "voucher" scheme to help those on a low wage with the cost of compulsory school uniforms.
But that was or is a once per year event!

27 February, 2011 04:03

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, and I forgot to include in the list of what has to be paid for out of social security personal allowances paid to the unemployed and single parents, is ALSO an amount to make up the RENT, because Housing Benefit normally does not pay the full amount. I am aware of a single parent with a two year old child,who has to find £20 per week out of her money to make up the rent, or she and her child would be homeless!
The Benefits system and allowance amounts are NOT the easy life that the government and the Daily Mail like to make out it is. Most do not "choose" to be on benefits for the short or the long term.

27 February, 2011 04:44

Blogger Hogdayafternoon said...

I use Pizza Express discount vouchers that they regularly E mail to me - oh the shame of it...

27 February, 2011 11:43

Anonymous uniform said...

*I just watched The One Show*

27 February, 2011 20:08

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your problem, my friend, is that you may not be able to use vouchers to feed your drug habit.

03 March, 2011 21:13


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