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Rehab as ‘crime reduction pathway’

Police are not responding to incidents of shop theft like they used to. West Midlands Police have admitted that in writing; and Professional Security magazine saw it for ourselves, as featured in the July 2018 print issue of the magazine; when we shadowed the security officer employed by the Birmingham city centre business crime reduction partnership, we saw how a shoplifter detained after a chase through the city centre by store security officers was returned to the scene of the crime, only to be released after an hour because there was no prospect of police arriving to make an arrest and process the crime.

Such commonplace stories are bad all round – bad for the security officers trying to do a job, bad for high streets that don’t get crimes against businesses recorded (and therefore they’re not counted, and in official eyes don’t exist). And bad ultimately for the shop thieves, many of whom are addicted to alcohol or drugs, or both. The shop thief Professional Security saw had stolen a couple of bottles.

This is, as West Midlands Police admit, not ideal, especially because shoplifting puts the safety of security and general staff at risk – staff trying to intercept or challenge a thief being one of the main causes of verbal and physical attacks on retail staff.

Hence West Midlands Police are looking at what they call a totally different approach – to put shop thieves who are addicts through rehab. To place a person in rehab costs the West Midlands force £2500; it would usually cost around £40,000. This significant reduction makes this ‘crime reduction pathway’ possible, the force says.

The Central England Co-operative (CEC) is supporting the programme, and two of the three addicts who have taken the rehab attended the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) David Jamieson’s annual business crime summit in Birmingham city centre this week. The two men spoke from the floor of how they felt the rehab had worked for them – the second man saying briefly that he felt he had his life back; he corrected himself to say that he had not had a life in the first place; and added instead that he felt ‘rescued’.

For their stories visit Youtube – Caroline, and Paul and James.

The programme is co-ordinated by PC Stuart Toogood, based at Erdington police station in the north of the city. He told Professional Security magazine that another retailer is speaking to the force about investing in the programme, as the Co-op is. Any donations to the programme by businesses are welcomed; and indeed to the places offering rehabilitation, Livingstone House, in Small Heath, Birmingham; and Seasons Rehab, in Walsall. You can contact PC Toogood at – [email protected]

At the summit, the CEC’s corporate social responsibility manager Hannah Gallimore outlined work by the Midlands-based arm of the Co-op (food store; pictured) on CSR in general, which includes seeking to combat assaults and aggression against staff. CEC has seen a fall of 6pc in store burglaries, and a 30pc fall in store robberies, while nationally retailers report rises in each crime category.

Most strikingly of all, she was able to point to a financial return for the spend of thousands of pounds on putting shoplifters through rehab – savings on stock not lost amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds, the CEC having identified that 60pc of its shop theft was being carried out by ten offenders, known to have alcohol or drug addictions or both.

More in the February 2020 print issue of the magazine.


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