Offender rehab scheme helps cut burglary rate…and form unlikely friendships!

Two burglary victims and the man who stole from them have struck up an unlikely friendship after we brought them together as part of an innovative offender rehab scheme.

Anne Linton and Terry Field’s Tyseley home was broken into back in May 2019 by a thief who sneaked in through a bedroom window and swiped electrical items and cash while they were away visiting friends.

We identified the offender − a prolific burglar with lots of offences to his name − and arrested the 39-year-old having linked him to several other opportunist break-ins.

Anne Linton and her daughter
Anne Linton and her daughter look on as ex-offender 'Mark' works on the garden

He was put before the courts and faced another jail term.

But this time, rather than simply locking him up again, the courts agreed to place him on a deferred sentence rehabilitation programme we’d piloted − a first for UK policing − that’s designed to break the cycle of offending and cut crime.

The C3 project sees us give repeat burglars − non-violent offenders whose crimes are drug fuelled − a chance to make amends to victims and get their lives back on track.

Like most other participants Mark − as he wants to be known − has stayed drug and crime free since enrolling on the scheme almost two years ago.

Having first met his victims to apologise and seek forgiveness during a Restorative Justice process, Mark has gone on to strike up a friendship with the couple, helping them with odd jobs, and even sending Christmas presents.

And he’s now offered to regularly tend Anne and Terry’s garden, including laying paving slabs and trimming hedges, as ill health means they struggle to stay on top of its maintenance.

Mark, now aged 41, said: “Anne and Terry gave me the chance to change my life and without them I don’t think I would be alive today. I owe them everything and I will always be in their debt. 

“I will do anything I can to help them, all they have do is ask and I will be there. I can never change what I did and I will always be ashamed. 

“All I can do now is to try and make things right. The C3 programme has turned my life around and for the first time in my life I am drugs and crime free. I will never go back to those days."

'Mark' regularly tends Anne and Terry's garden
'Mark' regularly tends Anne and Terry's garden, accompanied here by his caseworker PC John Haynes

Offenders on the C3 programme have their jail sentence put on hold for the period they are enrolled on the project and are electronically tagged for the first four months.

They enter into ‘contracts’ outlining targets they must hit − things like commitment to training or employment opportunities, Restorative Justice, or addiction support − are drug tested every week, and must meet regularly with police and probation.

The participants must admit to all of their offending and anyone failing to adhere to the deal is taken back to court and an increased jail sentence imposed.

It’s proved a success as since the C3 pilot was launched in 2017 burglary rates have since dropped across the West Midlands by around 30 per cent.

A total of 20 burglars have taken part in the project to date − resolving a total of 830 offences between them - with 14 successfully steering clear of crime. All of the participants take part with the agreement of their victims.

Detective Sergeant Sandy Thompson runs the project. He said: “This case illustrates how dealing with repeat offenders in a different way can steer them away from crime, improve their lives, and prevent other people becoming victims.

“For many years as a detective the end game was convicting a criminal. That was it, done, and onto the next one. But that didn’t address their behaviour and when they got out they invariably reoffended and caused more hurt in our communities. 

'Mark' with Anne Linton and her daughter
The project has resulted in some unlikely friendships - 'Mark' with Anne and her daughter

“This project puts the onus on the offender to change their ways. They’ll tell us ‘I really want to work’ or ‘I want to get off drugs’ so we say to them - prove it. 

“It’s certainly not a Get Out of Jail Free card: if they don’t stick to their end of the deal they will end up in a jail cell. It’s about addressing the root cause of someone’s offending to reduce burglaries.

“Ex-offenders on the programme say the process is a harder than serving a prison sentence because if compels them to face the reality of their offending and the harm they caused. But they stick with it because the benefits are huge.

“This programme has spared a lot of residents the heartache of suffering a break-in and saved a lot of money for the police, courts and prison service. And in Mark’s case, has resulted in some unlikely friendships."

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