THE soaring prices of everyday items has created a “huge increase” in crafty middle-class shoplifters, according to new research.
The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said that more affluent consumers are lining their pockets with goods because they see that “everyone else” is doing it too.
But the posh perpetrators are not stealing exotic items like television sets or mp3 players – they are taking seemingly trivial items like coffee, chocolate and steak meat.
Shops across the country are now resorting to keeping even the most bare essentials under lock and key amid fears of theft.
The British Retail Consortium said UKretailers lost £1.4billion in 2010/11 because of stealing – that is a 31% increase on last year.
The money that was lost, they say, could have paid for 130,000 full-time retail jobs.
Professor Joshua Bamfield from the CRR said that the middle-class aren’t just stealing clothes straight off the rack – they are being sneaky about.
He said: “Middle class people are shopping and stealing at the same time. That gives them the opportunity if they’re caught to say ‘I made a mistake, I put it in my pocket and forgot because I’m under so much pressure’.”
Prof Bamfield said the reason this is happening could be that individuals in positions of authority are seen to get away with forms of stealing and the public think it gives them a right to steal back.
He added: “People feel the political system is bust, everything they had confidence in is bust and the system is run by cheats.
“They are giving themselves permission to steal because everyone else is lining their pockets.”
Inflation has increased the prices of steaks, chicken and joints of Sunday dinner meat to such a height that they are now simply above and outwith the means of lots of families.
Other obscure yet popular contraband is cheese – of the 700 stores in the survey parmesan and cheddar proved to be a common object of theft.
Charity shops have also reported a 20% rise in thefts and they said the reason for this is that they are often seen as a “soft target”.
One woman who wished to remain anonymous spoke of her inability to adapt to thrifty-living after a lavish lifestyle.
She said: “I am a stay home mother, my husband is in the property industry – we’ve lived a comfortable life.
“I was used to things like clothes shopping trips with friends and just putting it on the credit card.
“But when things got tight outgoings became the source of furious arguments at home.
“I was stealing things like magazines – I’d walk out of a shop trying to make it seem like I’d bought them elsewhere.
“It also felt like I was redressing the balance of what I’d been deprived of.”
Harry Kaufner, chairmen of Crisis Counselling for Alleged Shoplifters, said: “There’s been a huge increase among those who’d be considered to be living comfortable lives.
“The consequences can be grave. Prosecution can bring on huge shame – some even contemplate taking their own lives.”
Glasgow Fort shopping centre’s operations manager and head of security Chris Riggall said one of the common techniques the new breed of crooks is using is concealing small items in with bigger ones.
He said: “We tell in-store guards to look out for the things like the clothes people wear. If it’s a nice summer day and a guy comes in wearing a big, long coat that will raise suspicion.
“Some shoplifters use concealment techniques, like carrying a bog box.
“They’re quick – they select, slip it in the box, then take. There are many who steal on impulse – it’s not big stuff, it can be silly little items.
“Maybe the husband’s lost his job or the neighbour’s got something they or their children want.
“But they act shifty, get spotted and get caught. Anyone caught stealing here is banned for life – we take your photo and hand you over to the police.”