Pensioner crime in Croydon on the rise
By Matt Johnson
The number of pensioners being arrested in Croydon is rising while youth arrests are dropping, the Advertiser can reveal.
Figures released to this paper under the Freedom of Information Act shows the number of men aged over 65 and women aged over 60 arrested in the borough rose by 14 per cent in a single year, while crime committed by under-19s showed a slight reduction for the same period.
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A total of 106 pensioners were nabbed by police in 2008, compared to just 90 in 2007.
And what is arguably more surprising is that the greatest increase in arrests was among elderly women.
However, the figure is still a fraction of the number committed by youths, which rose from 5,852 in 2007 to 5,805 in 2008.
Community groups said they were surprised by the findings but suggested some elderly people may be driven to commit crimes such as theft as they struggle along on modest pensions.
Among the alleged offences committed by elderly people in Croydon since January 2006 are theft of a motor vehicle, for which a 70-year-old was arrested, possessing cannabis, for which a 66-year-old was arrested and later cautioned, and possessing an offensive weapon, for which a 71-year-old was arrested.
Those who work with members of the elderly community say they are surprised by the increase in so called "grey crime."
When asked what would motivate an older person to carry a weapon Marguerite Warner, chairwoman of the Addiscombe Unity Club for the Over Sixties, said: "It had not occurred to me that older people carry weapons because of fear of crime. You always associate it with younger people. I can't visualise older people arming themselves. It surprises me."
Asked if financial hardship could be driving some pensioners to crime, Mrs Warner said: "Some pensioners are struggling financially, particularly with heating. Some people are not getting what they are entitled to.
"I can't imagine they would [steal] but you never know. It is a social thing to some extent. If you think something is wrong then you will struggle on whatever and you wouldn't do it.
"Older people definitely have a strong sense of right and wrong. That's part of our upbringing. Religion played a greater part in our lives than younger people's lives today. Older people still have the same basic morals they had when they were younger."
Chief executive of Age Concern Croydon Stuart Routledge said: "I think people have a bit of a naive view. Because you're 'old', whatever that is, it doesn't mean you're automatically a nice person. That is a myth.
"We are trying to support lots of people who have increasing levels of debt. Whether that's because the pension levels are low or because older people are in debt in the same way younger people are in debt, I can't say.
"We are definitely seeing more older people who are having problems managing their finances. There are many ways to skin a cat and one of those would be turning to crime."
However, a police source suggested one reason for the rise might be the force was taking a harder line on criminals, regardless of their age.
He said: "Nowadays we would treat pensioners the same as everyone else. If they have not been dealt with before they would probably be given a fixed penalty notice or a caution for a minor offence. There would be no special treatment."
For advice on managing your finances visit www.ageconcerncroydon.org.uk or call 020 8680 5450.