Blackpool’s most prolific criminals are wasting huge amounts of time and money that police can not afford, it has today been warned.
One-man crime wave Glenn Stacey – dubbed “The Blight of Blackpool” and approaching his 400th offence – has cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds to date.
Lancashire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said crooks like him are keeping officers from investigating more serious offences.
The 56-year-old, who was banned from Blackpool town centre last year, has racked up hundreds of court appearances, mainly for shoplifting and breaching his anti-social behaviour order (ASBO).
Stacey was given yet another jail term – this time for 42 days – for shoplifting by Blackpool magistrates on Friday.
Conservative estimates suggests the cost of locking Stacey up, sometimes for just days at a time, and his court appearances alone comes to more than £400,000.
But the true figure is likely to be far higher – a homeless man from Lytham who breached an ASBO around 45 times was estimated to have cost the taxpayer more than £2m by his solicitor.
Retired Blackpool magistrate Bob Hutchinson said people like Stacey are a “massive problem” in Blackpool.
He added: “They are an administrative drain on the system. Repeat offenders who keep coming back in for stealing £20 or £30 are a real problem.
“You have got to do so much work before you would consider sending them to prison.”
He said a simple guilty plea to a minor charge can last “five or six minutes” in court – but can add up to hours of work outside court.
“Time-wise it is hard to put a figure on it,” he added. “There are few repeat offenders who commit assaults or criminal damage.
“More often, it is thefts for money for drugs or drink.”
Lancashire Police Federation chairman Rachel Baines said: “People like this take up an inordinate amount of police time that could be better used elsewhere.
“These prolific offenders are taking up valuable resources when we have increases in more serious offences like child sexual exploitation and cyber crime, which is becoming increasingly demanding of police time.”
Police told The Gazette the force has identified a number “high intensity users” who take up disproportionate amounts of police time.
As well as repeat offenders like Stacey, they also include vulnerable people who make repeated calls to the police.
Ms Baines told The Gazette “dwindling” police resources mean the force needs to prioritise which incidents it attends.
She added: “It’s a few hours of police time just to process a simple shoplifting.
“That is valuable time the police could well be spending doing something else.”
And she questioned whether some prolific offenders could be better dealt with by other services.
Magistrates have frequently heard of Stacey’s problems with alcoholism, which have been blamed for his offending.
Police say Stacey, who is on benefits, has no fear of going to jail and as a result is widely known among town centre officers.
Ms Baines added: “These people need some help – if he has got some issues around alcohol abuse, are the police the right people to be dealing with him?
“He perhaps needs some assistance.”
Neighbourhood police officers do not believe jail is the answer to the problem.
While longer sentences may be welcomed by the town centre retailers Stacey has been known to target, one sergeant said it would do little, if anything, to change his ways.
It was a bitter sweet day for Stacey, from Alexandra Road, South Shore at his latest appearance.
First he appeared in the dock charged with stealing an £80 floor cleaner from the Ibis Hotel, Blackpool.
However, prosecutor Jim Mowbray had to withdraw the case after he said a disc containing alleged CCTV evidence against Stacey had gone missing at the Crown Prosecution Service.
But Stacey pleaded guilty to two other offences the theft of £42 of male toiletries from Boots on Bank Hey Street and breaching an ASBO which forbids him from going into areas of Blackpool town centre.