Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Burglaries in Ballymena slashed thanks to work with offenders

House burglaries in a town with a big drugs problem dropped by a fifth as part of a scheme to help criminals get back on the straight and narrow, it has been revealed.

Some of the offenders engaged in the programme once needed up to £150 a day to feed their addiction habits.

Over 400 victims of crime also received closure as a result of offenders working the district integrated offender management unit in Ballymena, Co Antrim where the multi-agency pilot scheme operated.

It is based on an award winning model implemented by Hertfordshire Constabulary and is now to be extended throughout the police district, PSNI assistant chief constable Dave Jones disclosed.

Details emerged as delegates prepared to gather at a conference later today to discuss the benefits of the initiative which is aimed at turning around the lives of offenders by providing a gateway for them to halt their criminal activities.

Probation officers, housing executive staff, solicitors, court service officials and people involved in providing re-training and addition services are all involved in the scheme to help supervise, resettle and rehabilitate young and adult offenders. It was introduced in July last year.

ACC Jones who outlined the benefits of the process for individuals and communities said: "Offenders taking part were encouraged to disclose all previous crimes through a process called 'Taking Into Consideration'.

"This ensures that once an individual is engaged in education or employment, and actively trying to change their circumstances, that they can remain in such an environment, as opposed to facing prosecution for crimes that may come to light at a later date."

He added: "This does not mean that the programme is a soft option for offenders. The court may recognise the offenders' desire to rehabilitate but the individual must demonstrate over a period of time their desire to work with partner agencies and lead a life free of crime.

"If they are not serious in their efforts they will be placed before the court to be sentenced in a more traditional manner."

Some of the offenders engaged with the programme previously committed crime to fund their addiction of between £40-£150 per day.

Over the last 12 months dwelling burglaries have decreased by over 20%.

Key statistics linked to the programme include:

  • Offenders with jobs are up to 50% less likely to re-offend
  • Offenders with accommodation are at least 20% less likely to re-offend
  • Offenders with family support are up to 50% less likely to re-offend
  • Offenders without essential skills, education or training are three times more likely to re-offend
  • Offences by drug dependent offenders were cut by 70% while in community-based treatment
  • An offender committing 140 crimes per year imposes costs on society of £280,000
  • The average daily cost of keeping a person in prison in Northern Ireland 2007/08 was £222 - equal to £80,030 per year
  • For every £1 spent on drug treatment there is a saving of £9.50 to society as a whole
  • 70% of youths discharged from custody reoffend within one year
  • The highest reoffending rates remain those for short term prisoners, who receive the least resettlement help.

Det Insp Matt Bonner from Hertfordshire Constabulary said: "The success of any IOM programme relies heavily on the support of partner agencies. We have been operating an IOM programme in Hertfordshire for the last three years and it has proved to be very successful. However, a flexible approach is required, as each individual's circumstances are different and require a tailored solution."

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