Heroin and crack cocaine, along with the recent explosion in New Psychoactive Substances, are not only blighting communities but drive as much as 50 per cent of all acquisitive crime, and 70 per cent of shop thefts.
Police recorded shop theft topped 385,000 offences last year, but the true figure, based on Home Office assumptions, is closer to 38 million offences. In 2017, we estimate shop theft cost £6.3bn – equivalent to £270 for every household in the country – and more than the average household’s monthly grocery shop.
At the same time, offenders with 36 or more previous convictions or cautions are responsible for an increasing proportion of theft offences dealt with by the criminal justice system – growing from 39 percent in 2010 to more than 60 per cent last year. Over the same period, the even more prolific cohort of offenders, with more than 60 previous convictions, has doubled.
At the root of this problem is a complete failure to tackle the addictions that fuel the bulk of theft, with offenders cycling through a criminal justice system that offers fines, community sentences, short prison sentences and threats, but nothing compelling in the way of true rehabilitation.
It is a broken system that demands fixing and this paper proposes a new sentencing option that would simultaneously offer the offenders a chance of long term recovery, while providing the victims of crime with respite.