Beating burglary together: how we work with offenders
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Catching criminals is a key part of the job description for Lincolnshire Police. But there’s work going on behind the scenes to get to the root cause of the problem, stopping offences before they happen and preventing future victims.
This is the aim of the team in Integrated Offender Management (IOM).
A multi-agency team comprising Police Officers, Support Officers, Drugs Recovery Workers and Probation Officers, work alongside a host of other agencies, in a unified approach to offender supervision in the community. IOM explores and develops alternative pathways to criminal behaviour, putting plans in place that address the reasons an individual commits crime.
Selection of individuals is based on the Government’s Neighbourhood Crime Integrated Offender Management Strategy which scores offenders focusing on the crimes that have the most devastating impact on communities. Burglary affects not only the victim but feelings of safety within the neighbourhood. Offender Manager PC James Bateman explained, “Burglary, robbery, theft from motor vehicle or theft from person increase an individual’s score significantly. Through this scoring system, we make sure we are focusing on risk and targeting our resources to those who cause the most harm.”
Image above: PC James Bateman
IOM seeks to remove the circumstances and temptations that lead to crime, addressing why the individual was offending in the first place. PC Bateman elaborated, “Once adopted, the IOM team meet the offender and establish what their ‘pathways’ are. Are they a drug user? Do they have accommodation? Are there any mental health issues? Do they have benefits in place to be able to afford food? For example, if we learn a former burglar is injecting heroin again, we know this could be a precursor to offending. By getting this person onto a methadone script and engaging with ‘We Are With You’ – a local charity providing free, confidential support to people experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health – we aim to mitigate that risk.”
Those on the IOM programme may not have had the best start in life, abuse or other Early Childhood Trauma are common. They may have a chaotic lifestyle, mental or physical health issues and a lack of support networks. PC Bateman explained the work of IOM is not about excusing the choices of an offender, but recognising why they offend and putting in place solutions and support, “Some people may read this and ask ‘why do they get special treatment?’ We know it’s the same offenders committing a large proportion of burglaries. Once they have served their time they return to the community and there is the potential that they will offend again. Unless we tackle the reasons why they commit crime, it’s their future victims who will suffer.”
Whilst the commitment of IOM is to prevent an individual from returning to a life of crime, the team will not hesitate to use enforcement. PC Bateman explained, “If offences are committed, we will seek to arrest as quickly as possible. On a day-to-day basis we wear plain clothes and use unmarked police vehicles, enabling us to build an intelligence picture. If grounds exist, we use powers like stop and search to disrupt offending.”
Engagement with those identified for the programme may begin with a meeting in prison and follow on from there. PC Bateman said, “The minute they come out, we are waiting for them. The team pick them up, we make appointments for them with other agencies, we make accommodation referrals and they get a food parcel and a mobile phone so we can contact them. We eliminate the reasons they have to commit crime.”
IOM uses the latest technology to reduce and deter crime. The Buddi tag can be worn by an IOM client on a voluntary basis as an alternative to being recalled to prison. Restrictions can be placed on the individual such as exclusion zones and curfews. These GPS tags mean the team will be alerted if the individual breaks their conditions. PC Bateman said, “This is an opportunity for offenders to work with us and prove themselves. It’s a reason for them to stay out of trouble and a solid excuse if peers are pressuring them. On the other hand, if they do commit crime, it’s an opportunity for us to secure evidence that puts them at the scene and can ultimately lead to a conviction.”
Through his work on the team, PC Bateman has built knowledge of offenders across his patch of Lincoln and West Lindsey, “With seven years’ experience on IOM, I know most of the active criminals and they know me. This is useful, for example, if we have a burglary, I’m often able to view CCTV footage and identify the offender.”
There is also a part the community can play in reducing crime. Sharing a case where an offender went through an open window just to steal a handful of DVDs, PC Bateman explained that burglaries are about opportunity as well as incentive, “An offender feeding a drug habit will look for open windows, open doors and valuables on show – if you keep your home secure and valuables out of sight, you reduce the risk of an opportunistic burglar.”
PC Bateman continues to enjoy the role, making a difference to the lives of those on the programme and contributing towards the detection and prevention of burglary in Lincolnshire, “I love the flexibility to respond to risk. We are dynamic in how we work, what we do and where we go. I enjoy the variety of ways in which we can manage offenders and help them make better choices. Some days are incredibly frustrating but the connections we make, and the rapport we build with partners and offenders, make it rewarding and worthwhile.”
After committing a burglary, for which a long sentence was served, an offender was released on licence twice. On both occasions he struggled to remain stable in the community, using alcohol and drugs, which inevitably led to him being recalled to back prison.
He was then referred to the IOM scheme and he received support with aspects of daily living. An alcohol tag was fitted as this was identified as a precursor to further offending.
When he moved in to his new accommodation, a simple, mundane issue came up about paying for utilities. He became quite emotional that he didn’t understand what to do and felt like a failure. This was previously a time when he would drink alcohol and potentially go and commit crime. An IOM Support Officer was able to help him with this small, yet potentially momentous, detail. This was a ‘sliding doors moment’ where the scheme has supported an individual in staying on the right path, ultimately contributing to reduced rates of crime in Lincolnshire.
The graph shows the desistance rates of the fixed cohort (Neighbourhood crime criminals) per quarter since April 22. This is the percentage of individuals who, for that quarter, were not charged with an offence. Since January 23, that figure has stood at 76%.
Note: Data includes those offenders that were in custody for the quarter (and therefore unable to offend). There is a time delay in charging offenders so an individual may have been outstanding for offences but not yet charged.