STARVING Glasgow shoplifters are being referred to food banks after a police chief today confirmed more people are stealing groceries because they are hungry.

But police said some of the thieves – including a pensioner caught trying to take three tins of salmon – needed help from charities rather than trouble from the courts.

The revelation came after the Evening Times revealed shoplifting figures had jumped 14% in the city in 2011-12 as the recession bites.

Chief Inspector Ann Hughes, of Maryhill police, said the demograhic of shoplifters had changed "significantly" in the past two years.

She said: "The profile of shoplifters is not consistent with what you would expect. Part of the change is the austerity we are experiencing.

"We had an old man who had taken three tins of salmon. He could not afford to feed himself.

"People are finding it really, really difficult.

"It's about making sure they are linked to the right agencies, food banks, etc. It's very, very sad."

Police refer such vulnerable and starving thieves to social services, which can put them in touch with food banks.

Chief Inspector Hughes is responsible for one of the poorest places in Scotland – and some of her patch has seen significant increases in shoplifting since the recession.

Strathclyde Police officially recorded 6318 reports of shoplifting in 2011-12, including a hefty jump in Maryhill, which has a recently revamped Tesco superstore.

The Evening Times earlier revealed the crime is booming at the heart of the city's Style Mile.

Police and retail crime experts link the rise to the recession – because more people are turning to theft and because struggling shops are less willing to tolerate the problem.

Chief Superintendent Grant Manders, who is in charge of the force's Public Protection And Safer Communities Department, earlier attributed the rise in shoplifting to hard times.

He said: "This is not entirely unexpected because most forms of theft increase in hard economic times, while most stores now have CCTV and other security measures that mean shoplifters are likely to be captured."

Retail insiders stress that the industry – facing crisis after crisis as sales drop – was not prepared to lose stock to thieves.

Higher police numbers on duty during the day are also playing a role, with retailers more willing to flag down a passing officer if they catch a thief.

But the scale of Scotland's hunger problem was revealed earlier this year as a charity opened more food banks across the country.

The Trussell Trust previously had just one centre in Scotland, in Paisley, but has opened nine more since 2011, including new outlets in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and East Ayrshire.

It provided food for almost 6000 people in 2011-12.