What would you do if you saw a woman stealing baby formula from a big supermarket?
What would you do if you saw a young man shoplifting an electrical item from a small, family-run village shop?
The level of sympathy we have, and our instinctive reaction, to incidents of store theft will naturally vary depending on the individual circumstances of each case.
The Courier’s investigation into the rise in shoplifting across Tayside and Fife reveals the extent of the problem.
In Dundee, there has been a 40% spike in cases. In Perth, the figure is 45%.
Though this perhaps shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
People are struggling to make ends meet. The cost of living crisis is hammering low-income families, to the point where many are struggling to afford basic essentials.
People shouldn’t have to resort to stealing to eat.
It’s hard to muster outrage when you hear of cases involving people nicking food from a supermarket that boasts a multi-million pound annual profit.
Of course, as the investigation reveals, not all incidents of shoplifting involve desperation and hunger. Crime gangs are also exploiting the weaknesses of retail security to generate a profit through organised theft.
Many of these cases also involve people struggling with drug dependency who are stealing products to sell on to fund their habit.
It is not the police that are on the frontline dealing with this shoplifting epidemic, but the perpetually over-worked and under-paid workers in the retail sector.
A survey by shopworkers union Usdaw found that violence against retail staff has almost doubled since 2016.
It is not part of their job – and nor should it be expected to be – to put themselves at risk by attempting to intervene when they witness theft.
The solution put forward by some to curb the rise in shoplifting is to invest in more police officers.
But an increased police presence would only be useful in dealing with cases that have already occurred.
There’s no simple solution, but that’s because the decay that has led to widespread poverty and falling living standards is so rife.
The UK Government’s approach to social security benefits for low-income households seems to be to work out the amount of money people require for basic survival.
And then knock off a few quid in case that’s a bit too generous.
‘Scramble to bring down benefits has had consequences’
They then make applying for that sum as difficult as possible and stand ready to withdraw it for the most minor perceived infraction.
Their justification for this is based purely on cost.
But that desperate scramble to bring down the benefits bill has had far-reaching consequences.
There is a wider social cost to keeping millions of people in a constant state of financial uncertainty. It’s not a simple case of working your way out of poverty. Many of the families that rely on tax credits have at least one working parent.
Many of the people that visit foodbanks are in employment.
And it’s expensive to be poor. You don’t have the luxury of cheap credit or being able to drive for miles to the cheapest supermarket. Rents are rising at an alarming rate; energy is cripplingly expensive and childcare is simply unaffordable for many parents.
When hardship becomes normalised, crime, despair and societal rot is too.
The true cost of the austerity project is hard to comprehend.
But we’ll be paying it for many decades to come.
I had grand ambitions when I first found out I was pregnant.
I was sure that my daughter wouldn’t have any processed foods or sugar.
All meals would be homemade. Screen time would be minimal. I was certain I’d somehow find the time to teach her a second language, despite the fact that I can’t speak any other languages myself.
You can imagine how long that parenting fairytale lasted.
The best laid plans I had for our new puppy have also been abandoned.
I have resorted to bribery to get some peace and I don’t feel at all guilty about it.
The only time this dog isn’t trying to bite me (or the Christmas tree) is when he’s sleeping, or there’s something tastier in his mouth.
I now have a relaxing jazz music playlist on repeat to ensure he gets lots of restful naps.
I’ve got a production line of frozen licky mats on the go at all times. I have a variety of disgusting animal chews on rotation.
The internet tells me that it is entirely normal for puppies to be psychopathic bundles of self-destruction, and he will mellow out as he ages.