Leicester: Old Lag’s Crimes Making A Big Comeback Due To Recession

17 Jul

Burglaries are up 14% in 2010/2011 according to this week’s British Crime Survey, despite falling by 9% the year before. The reversal of the downward trend is surprising because housebreaking was becoming an outdated crime-like apple scrumping (and about as financially rewarding.) This month I didn’t bother renewing my contents insurance because, after a quick inventory, it occurred to me that nothing I owned was worth anything, mainly thanks to globilisation and the digitization of home entertainment.

Nowadays you can pick up a decent, brand new TV and DVD player for peanuts so what must the resale value be like off the back of a lorry? DVDs are rapidly going the way of the major stockists like Woolworths and Zavvi with most people opting for Love Film or piracy, meaning that thieves will probably end up dropping your DVD collection off at a charity shop …Well, you never know.

Criminology Lecturer James Treadwell from the University of Leicester, the producer of the study last year, told the BBC that: “Cheap labour in China has had an impact on the type of crime that’s committed in the UK and the type of goods that are stolen today. Gradually, the prices of such goods has fallen so low as to they almost have no resale value.”

Given that burglary is a horrible violation of one’s home and a terrifying ordeal if one is cowering under the duvet at the time, the 2009/2010 was a good news. However the University of Leicester report also identified how criminals have diversified into muggings because smart phones (and now iPads) cost from £300-£500 and once they have been unlocked they have a worthwhile resale value.

Why these phone unlocking places are allowed to operate is a mystery, but what is all too apparent is that once the phone is freed sites such as eBay and Gumtree provide criminals with a massive, marketplace to sell their goods – rendering the lorry that things fall off of totally redundant. Not only do these worldwide markets mean that goods are less likely to be recovered by a quick trip to Cash Convertors but the Web also provides the seller with a cloak of anonymity, meaning they are very unlikely to be caught handling stolen goods.

Rebounding housebreaking rates are likely the result of the recession. This week it was also reported that the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits has risen by 24,500 between May and June — the largest rise for more than two years. Police numbers are also being reduced by around 12,000 making it less likely burglars will be caught but luckily the Big Society is stepping in allowing us to protect our homes.

David Cameron has announced plans to offer support for people protecting their property: “We will put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted.”

As a hide-under-the-duvet type myself I’m unlikely to put the seven iron under the bed to much use, in the event of a break-in but it only seems right that people who do wield a weapon don’t get punished for assault.

Rent-a-quote and ubiquitous talking head Shami Chakrabarti of civil rights group Liberty inevitably disagrees with this commonsense approach saying that: the idea burglars leave their rights at the threshold “is a recipe for vigilante execution and mistaken killings of family members returning home after dark.” How many cases are there of someone actually murdering family member, thinking they’re a burglar? How dark must it get in Shami’s house? It’s so unlikely that even actual murderers wouldn’t bother using it in their defence.

In 2009 the British Crime Survey reported that the risk of being a victim of crime is historically low. That this trend is beginning to reverse is another unfair consequence, likely to impact on ordinary people, of the greed of the bankers and weakness of financial regulation.

In IRELAND: Download crime prevention – (Neighbourhood Watch) information at: www.garda.ie

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