Suffolk's police boss has said there is more to be done to help those struggling during the cost-of-living crisis following a rise in the shoplifting of food.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicates a 24 per cent rise in shoplifting between March 2022 and 2023 across the country.

This issue was among those discussed during the police accountability and performance panel on Friday.

Suffolk measures better in comparison to other forces in the UK in terms of shoplifting, with levels six per cent lower than otherwise predicted.

However, although the crime is often associated with alcohol and other expensive items, the meeting revealed a rise in the shoplifting of food as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

East Anglian Daily Times: Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore.Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore. (Image: Newsquest)

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore said there is a lot more to be done to ‘look after those who are in great difficulty’.

He added: “As a Suffolk native, I don’t remember a time quite like this when there has been so much tightening — it’s quite distressing, actually.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Deputy Chief Constable Robert Jones.Deputy Chief Constable Robert Jones. (Image: Suffolk Constabulary)

Deputy Chief Constable, Robert Jones, said the food taken was even characterised with cheaper items.

In recent times, he added, Suffolk Police has had to set foodbanks near supermarkets in an attempt to reduce food waste and discourage people from shoplifting.

But the problem also runs much deeper.

They said that with alcohol still the second most sought type of item, and with general shoplifting figures on the rise, concerns over drug abuse and addiction start to grow.

These often develop alongside financial struggles and can often spiral out of control, leading to a vicious cycle, Mr Passmore added.

Mr Passmore stressed the importance of employment and preventative measures as  ‘absolutely crucial’ to making sure people do not end up in the situation where they are forced to shoplift food, to begin with.

He argued that ensuring employment and secure housing would help the force reduce crime and create investment into the county, rivalling the vicious cycle.

He said: “We have got to get more inward investment to provide opportunities for those who haven’t got a job and policing is the centre of encouraging economic growth and development.

“We all know if you’ve got high levels of crime, vandalism, anti-social behaviour, you’re not going to be as attractive as an area without it.

“We have got to get our economy motoring.”

In fact, Mr Passmore insisted broader attention should be placed on making sure there are employment opportunities for past offenders.

He continued: “Some people have lost their way and I don’t think we handle the rehabilitation of offenders once they’re released from prison nearly well enough.

“From my own personal experience, some of these people are the most loyal and grateful because they’ve been given a second chance.

“They need boundaries, they need help, and they need support.”