Central England Co-op is supporting a pioneering programme aimed at helping prolific shoplifters in Birmingham turn their lives around.
The retailer has linked up with West Midlands Police to support a unique project aiming to have a long-term impact by helping the offenders rehabilitate and transform their lives while also reducing crime in the communities it is based.
James Kelly and Paul Brookes have agreed to join the Offender to Rehab programme which aims to help them turn their back on crime. James and Paul between them carried out nearly 200 known offences including shoplifting and served several prison sentences, all to sustain their heroin and crack cocaine addictions.
The pair were identified by PC Stuart Toogood, from Erdington Neighbourhood team, who was able to get them into Livingstone House, a male-only residential drug and rehabilitation programme in Small Heath.
Despite the Society introducing a range of new measures to tackle crime and enjoying a 30% reduction in robberies during the past two years, shoplifting continues to be one of the biggest obstacles faced by colleagues in stores. This led to Central England Co-op linking up with West Midlands Police to try this different approach to tackle persistent offenders in Birmingham.
Hannah Gallimore, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Central England Co-op, said: “We work extremely hard to put in place a raft of measures to try and make sure that our stores are safe places to work and shop for colleagues, customers and members.
“However, unfortunately, incidents such as shoplifting do take place. As well as working closely with partners such as local police forces to bring criminals to justice, we also want to try and back projects that can not only put an end to crime taking place but also help turn the lives around of those involved.
“This is why we were delighted to link up with West Midlands Police and PC Toogood to help Paul and James on their journey in rehab.
“The innovative project is one that has targeted not just the most prolific offenders but also the ones that are willing to make changes.
“We are so proud of the progress that Paul and James have made and we are committed to continuing to support them and this programme as we have seen for ourselves the incredible benefits it can make to the community and, most importantly, the people taking part.”
Paul and James have now successfully completed their programmes and have been clean for seven and five months respectively.
The two men are now in aftercare in dry houses and are continuing to work on their relationships with their families, especially their mothers who have supported them through their journeys.
Paul, 42, said: “Rehab has helped me set a foundation for going forward. By adopting the 12 steps of recovery I have learned coping mechanisms and can talk openly about my feelings.”
James, 33, said: “I just want to say to anyone that’s struggling with it – there’s always hope. Just reach out and ask for help. There’s help out there.”
PC Toogood said: “Shop theft can very often be perceived and treated as low level crime, but this should not be the case. In my experience, the vast majority of shoplifters only commit these offences to support a serious drug addiction.
“They have led a life of drugs, crime and prison and their addictions have never been tackled efficiently. Our scheme has most definitely seen a reduction in shop theft locally, reduced the risk of violent incidents towards staff and, importantly, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of pounds not going into the local drugs economy which in linked to serious and organised crime.
“We are delighted that Central England Co-op has been the first business to come on board and work with us, and, in turn, be able to talk to other businesses about their positive experiences -giving them confidence to become involved as well.”
The success of the project has resulted in the Society talking with several other police forces covering across its trading region including Staffordshire Police about implementing and support other similar schemes.
Central England Co-op stores now host a string of measures to try and stop incidents and protect colleagues, members and customers.
Stores are fitted with external motion detectors and a centrally monitored CCTV system fitted which allows colleagues to call for assistance at the touch of a button.
These sit alongside a range of others such as product GPS trackers, additional ATM anchors, gas suppression systems and stringent cash controls, all of which are designed to keep customers and colleagues safe as well as actively promoting the fact that targeting convenience supermarkets is not ‘worth the risk’.
In 2019, the retailer launched a further campaign warning would-be criminals that violence and aggression towards colleagues will ‘not be tolerated’.