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Offenders’ perspective: part two

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

The hour began with the men asked how they got into crime. Tony said his story was similar to Andy’s; at about 14 he was put in a detention centre – ‘I probably came out there knowing a lot more serious stuff, people you met in prison’. As Martin Gill asked, prison had not deterred the men. Tony recalled that he had been pretty sure he would go to prison. Andy, too, got a sentence in detention centre, supposedly as a ‘short, sharp shock’; instead, ‘really, that just made me bitter; before, I was scared of the police and authority.’ A couple of weeks of detention made him angry (‘I didn’t care then; I was just going to do what I was going to do’).

For much of the hour, the men answered viewers’ questions. When the men shoplifted, were security officers a deterrent? ‘At first, to be honest, no,’ replied Andy. ‘It depends, if you walk in somewhere and their’s eye contact, you can tell by people’s reaction. It just depends on the guard and on his reaction.’ As he went into more detail about later, Andy might steal by pushing a laden trolley of goods out of a supermarket. “They have got it sussed out now,” Andy added, meaning shop security: “the cameras, the screens, the electronic stuff.’ But in the first place, guards ‘might as well have been cardboard cut-outs’, Andy summed up.

That was not the only occasion where the men suggested that security had become more – both in terms of products in view, and (not quite the same thing) how well they were applied. Tony suggested security staff in retail stores took thieves more seriously, by taking a theft personally – ‘you are going in their shop, you are taking something from them, and it isn’t really like that’.

How, Andy was asked, did he decide to commit crime, to become a prolific shoplifter and then burglar (including commercial burglary)? At first, he admitted, he had no bottle; ‘I think it was when I first went into drugs. I needed some money.’ He worked out that rather than stealing by stuffing things under your coat – which might take thefts at ten shops, to make the £300 to £500 in a day to afford drugs – he would make that amount in one place. ‘If you are dressed properly and act properly, you can walk it out [the stolen goods] and people don’t notice.’ Instead, then, of going from one shop to the next, with a suspiciously big coat and bag, he might offer to take someone’s shopping list and buy it for half price, and steal some things for himself, ‘and finish by lunchtime’.

Tony was asked how he got into robbery. “That was through someone seeing me get chased by the police,” he recalled, “a friend of my dad’s. I just drove for someone and it went on from there. Someone didn’t turn up to do what they were meant to do,” namely a bank robbery. “I fell into drugs and then it was a case of urgency, more so than anything else.”

When the men got stolen money, did they save any, ever? They did not. Andy recalled: “It doesn’t matter how much you get, it’s easy come easy go, money.” By earning £500 stolen in half an hour, ‘you don’t respect it. You might not be conscious of it, it’s the adrenalin, gets linked to the reward. You would reward yourself with drugs and it turns into a cycle.’

When looking over a property with a view to burgling it, ‘if you get a lot of nosey people’, as Tony put it, there are ways around that. People are a lot more suspicious now, he said. “I wouldn’t just sit in the car waiting for someone to wonder what I was doing, I would look at it from different angles at different times. Everyone seems to be switched on [to preventing crime] nowadays, everyone has got a camera and it’s not worth it.”

Visit to listen to this and previous webinars, under the banner of the OSPAs (Outstanding Security Performance Awards).

Part three of four of this digest; on this link.


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