Food theft spikes amid recession

The theft of basic foodstuff has increased dramatically in the past year as cash-strapped consumers battle to cope in the recession, Beeld reported on Wednesday.

Consumer Goods Council of South Africa director Michael Broughton said about R4,2-million in consumer goods was stolen in 2008.

But by June this year, the number was already standing at more than R3-million.

“People steal items such as rice, sugar, mealie pap and small pieces of chicken,” said Broughton.

Also, new thieves from higher income groups are emerging.

“People from higher income groups who are used to a certain lifestyle count among the ‘new thieves’.

“A woman would, for instance, steal a packet of sweetener because her husband has lost his job and they cannot afford it anymore. People do not want to give up these luxuries,” said Broughton.

Most thieves buy some goods from a shop while hiding others in their pockets or handbags.

Broughton warned that a suspected thief can be arrested inside a shop.

“In the past, people could only be arrested once they walk out of the shop with the item, but now it is assumed that if you are hiding something inside the shop, you are planning to steal it.”

In May this year, South Africa was hit by its first recession in 17 years, as the economy shrunk by 6,4% in the first quarter of 2009.—Sapa

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