Central England Co-op backs scheme to help ex-offenders rehabilitate

The scheme is supporting ex-offenders to tackle their addictions

Shoplifters are being given the chance to turn their lives around through a scheme supported by the Central England Co-operative.

In attempt to tackle shoplifting the retailer has teamed up with West Midlands Police to help offenders rehabilitate by addressing their addictions.

Among the first to benefit were James Kelly and Paul Brookes who joined the Offender to Rehab programme after serving years of prison sentences. Between them, the two carried out nearly 200 known offences, including shoplifting to sustain their heroin and crack cocaine addictions.

Under the recommendation of PC Stuart Toogood, from Erdington Neighbourhood team, they were admitted into Livingstone House, a male only residential drug and rehabilitation programme in Small Heath.

In addition to making a financial donation to support the scheme, the Central England Co-operative is providing mentorship to those admitted, helping them with their CVs and encouraging them to look for education opportunities.

The society has introduced to tackle crime, which led to a 30% reduction in robberies during the past two years. 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.

Hannah Gallimore, corporate responsibility manager at Central England Co-op, who is a mentor on the scheme, 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. Livingstone House is using a 12 Step Programme for rehabilitation, in conjunction with any alternative therapies that support recovery. 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. 

Fourty-two year old Paul 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, who is 33, added: “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.”

Central England is now talking with several other police forces covering across its trading region – including Staffordshire Police – about implementing and support other similar schemes.