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Interviews

Offenders’ perspective: part three

Two offenders, Tony and Andy, gave their views of security in the latest webinar during the Covid-19 lockdown by Prof Martin Gill of consultancy Perpetuity.

How far would the men travel to do crime? they were asked. ‘One hundred per cent travel,” replied Andy. “Never crap on your own doorstep, excuse my French …. you don’t do things on your own manor, rob off your own people.” There was a practical side to being a travelling criminal also; further out was where no-one knew you or could recognise you. Tony agreed: “The further out you are the better. The less chance you are going to get noticed by someone.”

Martin Gill asked the men if there were a risk in travelling. Not if you have everything you should, Andy replied; such as tax and insurance on your car; and a car that’s not stolen. And don’t attract attention to yourself; ‘try not to look like a criminal’, but look like you are going to work for the day.

Security products such as building alarms are one thing, but people have got to set them; and the men evidently took note of other deterrents – such as dogs about the house. Who taught the men to ‘think criminal’? Andy replied: “Whether or not it is true; I think you are either that way inclined or not. It takes that one occasion to bring that to the forefront, and from then on in you are pretty much looking and learning all the time. I would say looking back now, none of my family are criminals, just me; you might be a product of necessity at first; then environment.”

Whether in prison or in ‘the system’, whether doing community sentences or probation, ‘everyone is always boasting about new ideas, things they have done, you can jump on board with them, or think of a better way to do it, or a way that suits you more.”

A similar question asked where they got their ideas for targets. All sorts of sources, was the reply. Someone who has never been ‘in trouble’ might have passed on the detail, such as when and where someone drops off thousands of pounds in wages, ‘and you give them a drink’. How do you trust that source? Andy drew breath. “That’s what it comes down to,” he said. “You need to let them know they need to be trusted,” was how he put it.

Arguably one of the most interesting views from the offenders was of prison – ‘a young person’s game, now’. “Prison isn’t the same as it used to be,” implying it’s got worse for the older criminal. “There’s no respect like there used to be, gangs are in there, it’s a dangerous place to be, now.”

Allied to that, it sounded as if with age came more discretion for the offender: “I don’t feel the same urgency to be up and out, and spending money all the time; and just the fact that nowadays the risks outweigh the rewards in so many different ways, now. Before I could go out and earn a few hundred quid by lunchtime; now it would take six o’clock in the morning to eight o’clock at night, and I would be lucky to get that.”

Part of the reason for how acquisitive crime has become more difficult was evidently electronic security installs. “There’s so much technology, cameras, there’s too much risk now, and anything that’s worth anything, it’s buttoned down now, it’s got tags on; I am not going to risk getting arrested for £20, £30 …. especially now I have been to prison, my sentence isn’t going to be a small one. I am going to get three years minimum, it’s got to be something pretty spectacular to draw me back in.”

As all that suggested, the criminal has a fine sense of risk. Tony was asked if he was ever afraid of being caught, and of going back to prison. No; ‘if you worry about getting caught, you wouldn’t do it. If you feel sorry for people, you would drive yourself mad by having a conscience, or a self-conscience by being caught. No, never.’

Andy spoke likewise, in terms of risk: “If you thought you would get caught, you would leave it [a possible place to steal from]. Like I said, it’s a risk-reward thing.” Here he recalled being caught (‘in the end’) for importation of cannabis, but had weighed up the likely few years in prison compared with the financial reward, that he needed at the time (‘to pay off rent arrears and move’). “So I took the risk, you weigh it up.”

Fourth and final part on this link; what the offenders feel about prison now.


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