A former drug addict who was one of the most prolific shoplifters in the West Midlands has thanked the police offender manager who’s helped turn her back on a life of crime.
Hayley Bridgewater was a college graduate holding down a steady job − but her life took a rapid nosedive when she met a new boyfriend and was introduced to drugs.
Her experimentation quickly spiralled out of control and saw her develop a £300 a day heroin and crack cocaine habit.
It led to the 30-year-old amassing 24 convictions between 2012 and 2017 for theft and handling stolen goods − offences she committed to fund her addictions − and was sent to prison on 10 separate occasions.
West Midlands Police’s Offender Management Unit started working with Hayley, formerly of Badsey Road, Oldbury, in 2015 as she emerged as one of the force’s most prolific shoplifters.
She was offered help accessing accommodation, drug withdrawal, mental health, education, employment and family support for her two children.
Her cooperation with police and probation fluctuated until in March 2017, following her final conviction for possessing crack cocaine, she committed herself to embracing the support of West Midlands Police.
As part of her rehabilitation PC Chris Franklin − one of 270 West Midlands Police offender managers − secured Hayley a place at a Christian drug recovery retreat in the Welsh town of Cwmbran.
She’s been drug and crime-free since and in a handwritten letter to PC Franklin said: “I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for me… I’m so happy to be starting a fresh.
“Having taken this opportunity from you has really opened my eyes; I’m finally committed to starting a fresh. You have been such a great support; words can’t explain how thankful I am to have you in my life.”
PC Franklin said he is immensely proud of Hayley’s achievement and happy to have played a part in her road to recovery.
He added: “Hayley was at a very low point: a chaotic drug user, she had been evicted from her flat and her daughters had been taken into care. She sold her own car to get money for drugs.
“She was managed as a high risk offender and, though we made some early progress, she missed appointments and kept reoffending. But she had an epiphany last year and her turnaround has been incredible.
“I’ve stayed in touch with Hayley throughout her time at the rehab centre to offer her support and encouragement especially in the first few days and weeks, and she comes to see me whenever she’s back in the West Midlands.
“She’s now a volunteer staff member with a view to be taken on full time in a paid capacity − and the best news of all is that she’s in the process of getting her own home and working towards having more contact with her children.
“She is a completely different person; I hope her story may help others in a similar situation and to illustrate that that there can be light at the end of the tunnel.”
West Midlands Police offender managers are currently working with more than 2,000 of the region’s most prolific offenders and those deemed most at risk of committing more crime.
They work with partner agencies such as probation, drug and alcohol services plus charities in a bid to rehabilitate offenders − but also respond robustly to anyone who refuses to break their crime cycle and won’t accept support.
Chief Inspector Deb Johnson is the force lead for Offender Management. She said: “Many people who commit crime are complex characters… that’s why we need subtler approaches to how we view, label and manage offenders to prevent them reoffending.
“West Midlands Police now looks more at the underlying causes of crime − and how we stop that person coming back to our attention − rather than simply dishing out a caution or court date as that doesn’t address the root cause of their offending.
“Our officers aren’t social workers. But looking at what causes vulnerable people to commit offences and helping them access the right support is proven to be highly effective in reducing the chance of them committing more crime. And preventing crime is our core business.”