Police chief accused of 'making excuses for criminals' in cost of living row

A police chief has been accused of "making excuses for criminals" after he suggested the cost of living crisis would lead to a spike in crime.

West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police

Conservative MP Mike Wood said crimes such as theft were a "conscious choice" and rising food and energy prices should not be used as an "excuse" for criminality.

It comes after the Labour West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Simon Foster, said ministers had failed to consider the impact on crime of rising prices and increased taxes.

He was responding to comments from Policing Minister Kit Malthouse, who said people would not necessarily turn to crime because they were "challenged financially".

Mr Foster said: "Let me be clear, the rule of law requires that offenders must be held to account via the criminal justice system.

"However, we now face a cost of living financial crisis that will cause poverty, inequality, insecurity and hardship.

"This will create the circumstances in which crime can, for some, become an attractive and viable option – and the vulnerable can become ever more susceptible to becoming victims of crime and criminal exploitation."

Dudley South MP Mr Wood said: "Sadly the Police and Crime Commissioner seems to have a different excuse for every failure to take action to enforce the law and protect the public.

"Whether it is shoplifting, burglary or robbery, all of these crimes have an impact on people and businesses.

"People who pay their taxes have a right to expect the PCC to support upholding the law rather than making excuses for criminals.

"The rising cost of living cannot simply be used as an excuse for crimes like theft and robbery. It is a conscious choice by the offender."

The West Midlands Police area has seen the country's biggest rise in crime, with a spike of more than a fifth in the year to June.

Mr Malthouse's comments run contrary to the view of the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke, who said "the impact of poverty and the impact of lack of opportunity does lead to an increase in crime".

Mr Foster has repeatedly blamed the region's poor record on crime on cuts to police budgets since 2010.

He added: "I am deeply concerned that the Government appears not to have given any consideration at all to the impact that rising inflation, rising taxes and the cost of living crisis might have on crime.

"I will be continuing to rebuild community policing, campaign for the return of our 1,000 missing police officers and fair funding for the West Midlands and support investment in our essential preventative public services to prevent crime, because the prevention of crime is always better than having to deal with the consequences of crime."

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