HUNDREDS of pensioners have been arrested in south Essex over the past five years.

While younger people are often characterised as being responsible for crime, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 600 arrests of people over 65 between the end of March 2008 and the beginning of April 2013.

Those picked up by the police included a 90-year-old man for drink driving, in Basildon, an 82- year-old for possessing an offensive weapon in Basildon and an 87-yearold for causing actual bodily harm in Southend.

Of the crimes – 90 were for theft – suggesting the effects of the recession may be fuelling some of the incidents.

Derek Iles, 77, of Brightwell Avenue, Westcliff, is active among pensioners’ groups.

He said: “I’m surprised to hear that is the case. I find it difficult to live myself.

“I’ve only got about £1.77 to last me over the next few days, but I keep the gas topped up and I wouldn’t dream of stealing.

“No one I know goes around a supermarket dropping things into their basket and not paying for them.

“I think there may be other underlying issues with alcohol and things like that.

“But if pensioners are now resorting to theft, that may show something is seriously wrong with the system of benefits and pensions.”

Incidents included: Peter Barrett, 66, of The Close, Hockley, was given a curfew order in October after threatening a neighbour with an airgun David Bromley, 67, of Dennises Lane, South Ockenden, was fined £350 at Basildon Crown Court in August for possessing an unlicensed air gun, which was repaired by police so it could be tested Suchay Hunyh, 66, of Manor Avenue, Basildon, was fined £750 in January 2013 for punching a female traffic warden in Southend.