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.