STAFFORDSHIRE’S chief constable Mike Cunningham said police had a ’moral responsibility’ to help people who turn to crime in crisis following a over shoplifters being handed food vouchers by the police.
Staffordshire police tsar Matthew Ellis instigated a review into working practices between police and other community services to try to find a better way of directing people in need to support after it was found that police in north Staffordshire had given three-day food bank vouchers to people caught stealing food.
Mr Cunningham said: “As a front-line service the police regularly come into contact with individuals from all walks of life.
“Our job is to deal with offenders and find longer-lasting solutions to the underlying problems and issues that lead to offences in the first place,” he said. “Some of the people who we see in custody can be extremely vulnerable for many reasons.
“I think we have a moral responsibility to help those in genuine crisis and despair so that they can have better, crime-free lives.”
Mr Cunningham said, while only eight of the 5,833 dealt with by Staffordshire Police in its northern custody facility were given the voucher, he agreed with Mr Ellis a more comprehensive, integrated and longer-term approach was needed.
Mr Ellis said: “Other agencies such as Social Services and Local Authorities have more expertise to offer a rounded approach to help an individual’s situation than the police possibly can so it’s crucial that the mechanisms are there to make sure that happens.
“We can’t allow any sense that the answer to a person’s situation is committing crime particularly when that will affect someone’s future prospects,” he said. “Joined up services are crucial in these cases whilst maintaining the principle that crime mustn’t be tolerated.”