Media caption, Alison Lowe said she would not judge someone for stealing food to feed their family
The head of policing in West Yorkshire has said she would not judge someone for stealing food to feed their family amid the cost of living crisis.
Deputy Mayor Alison Lowe told the BBC she understood how poverty could push people to break the law.
She said: “You can’t feed your family and stealing a loaf of bread can do that, you know, I’m personally not judging.”
The force said it was committed to investigating reports of theft.
Some police forces have reported a rise in shoplifting as prices soar.
Ms Lowe, the West Yorkshire deputy mayor for policing and crime, said thefts due to desperation were a “curse of the cost of living crisis” that society had to address.
“Crime is one of the things that tends to go up during a cost of living crisis,” she told Politics North.
“If you’ve got to feed your family and you can’t feed your family and stealing a loaf of bread can do that [feed them], you know, I’m personally not judging.
“I’m not the police, thankfully, so I don’t have to arrest them.
“The police might have to arrest them, but I am not a police officer.”
Fresh food prices rose at a record rate of 15% in December, with the cost of basics such as milk, cheese and eggs all surging last year.
Neighbouring force South Yorkshire Police has reported growing numbers of people, including young mothers, stealing out of desperation, while the chair of Merseyside’s Police and Crime Panel has linked a “massive rise” in supermarket shoplifting to the cost of living crisis.
West Yorkshire Police recorded 14,752 shoplifting offences in the 2011/22 financial year, up from 10,515 in the previous 12 months.
Last year’s figures were down from 18,196 in 2019/20 but may have been affected by the Covid pandemic and pre-date the current cost of living crisis.
A West Yorkshire Police spokesperson said it was “broadly acknowledged that poverty and deprivation can be a factor affecting crime rates”.
They added: “It is important that all agencies work together to provide help and support to members of our communities who are in need.
“West Yorkshire Police is committed to investigating reports of theft and taking appropriate action where suspects are identified.”
You can see the full interview on Sunday 29 January on Politics North (Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) on BBC One from 10:00 GMT or via the BBC iPlayer afterwards.
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