Sheffield pensioners are being pushed so far below the poverty line they are being forced into a life of crime, according to an expert in the city.
Dr Robert Jeffrey, sociologist at Sheffield Hallam University, said that rising levels of inequality are leaving many pensioners with no choice but to shoplift.
Dr Jeffrey made the comments in response to a Star investigation which revealed that crimes committed by pensioners in the city had soared by 25 per cent in three years – from 89 in 2013 to 111 in 2015.
Drugs trafficking, prostitution, guns and robberies were some of the 298 crimes committed by over 65s, according to figures released by South Yorkshire Police under Freedom of Information.
But the most common offence by far was shoplifting.
In the three year period there were 129 shoplifting offences, which equates to 43 per cent of all crimes by pensioners.
Dr Jeffrey said: “These statistics come as no surprise. As a sociologist of class and inequality I am well aware of the rising levels of poverty in the United Kingdom.
“More and more pensioners are being pushed below the poverty line. Age UK estimate that 1.6 million pensioners – or one in seven – are below the poverty line.
“It’s highly likely that pensioners are shoplifting out of poverty – even our previous Chief Constable, David Crompton, acknowledged back in 2013 that increasing shoplifting was linked to austerity and unemployment.”
Dr Jeffrey said that how to address the issue was a ‘difficult question’.
He said: “The UK has become an increasingly unfair society, and rising inequality has been accompanied by declining social mobility.
“Food and fuel vouchers and targeted assistance for the elderly might help tackle this particular problem, but ultimately I think only greater equality and redistribution of income can help tackle the many social problems we are now facing.”
A spokesman for the Centre for Crime Prevention described the findings as ‘worrying’.