Police chiefs are drawing up contingency plans to deal with a feared breakdown in public order as millions of families struggle to make ends meet. A leaked national strategy paper, drawn up in the summer, reveals increasing concern among senior officers that “economic turmoil and financial instability” has the potential to “drive increases in particular crime types”.
Chief constables believe officers could have to deal with an exponential rise in shoplifting, burglary, vehicle and fuel theft, online fraud and blackmail, and crimes that exploit financial vulnerability.
There are also fears that vulnerable children could be pushed into drug running as part of county lines drug gangs, while women become victims of sexual exploitation.
Forces are even said to be fearful of corruption among some officers as energy bills become even more expensive.
In chilling echoes of the conditions that led to the London riots in 2011 the dossier, compiled with input from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, states a more complex and unpredictable risk is the chance of greater civil unrest as a response to “prolonged and painful economic pressure”.
The document adds: “Greater financial vulnerability may expose some staff to higher risk of corruption, especially among those who fall into significant debt or financial difficulties.”
The Government has announced a financial package to help those struggling to pay bills. But charities and campaigners have warned the emergency measures do not go far enough.