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An award-winning programme which has transformed lives and saved retailers in Birmingham £800,000 has celebrated its success.

The Offender to Rehab initiative, which is funded by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, aims to make sure people who are stealing to fund an addiction are treated in a rehab facility. 

PCC Simon Foster, backs the Howard League award winning programme because it focuses on the underlying causes of crime, with a view to preventing crime happening in the first place.

Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil was on hand to meet those who took part

Now those who have experienced the scheme have been honoured for turning their lives around at an awards ceremony.

The event heard that 27 prolific shoplifters were admitted into residential rehab and stopped stealing to feed their habit thanks to the scheme.

They were honoured at the event this week, which was attended by Assistant PCC Tom McNeil and West Midlands Police officer Stuart Toogood, who led the programme.

Assistant PCC Tom McNeil said: “It was wonderful to witness people’s journey in overcoming long term addictions and leaving a life of crime, celebrating the success of the Offender to Rehab Programme – a true partnership between West Midlands Police, the Commissioner’s Office, retailers and rehabilitation services.

Assistant PCC Tom McNeil addressed those present

“Through targeted support to tackle addictions and the causes of addiction, this national award-winning programme has made our communities safer, improved lives, prevented victimisation and saved huge amounts of money for the public and businesses.

“I’ve so much admiration for all the selfless people who continue to make this a success, as the programme is extended across the region.”

ACC Andy Hill said: “The event really highlighted the great work that has been achieved through the programme, which has proven to benefit many sectors. Listening to the testimonies of people that have been through the programme was incredibly inspiring. West Midlands Police will continue to support this programme and examine opportunities to expand its reach.”

PC Stuart Toogood, who is behind the project, added: “We wanted to recognise all of our clients’ achievements and also thank all of our partner agencies who make our programme what it is – and our event enabled us to do just that.

“It was incredibly moving to listen to our clients’ stories and a chance for us to really celebrate their achievements. Many were several years into recovery, whilst other were several months – all have done really well, and act as an inspiration to others struggling with their addiction.

“We do our programme to help those individuals’ but we are also very mindful that our aim is also to prevent crime and prevent money going into the illegal drugs market – our programme does this. I know that all of us on the team were incredibly proud of all our clients.”

The principle is simple: chasing, arresting and imprisoning shoplifters who are stealing to feed an addiction is time consuming for the police, expensive for the taxpayer and rarely solves the underlying causes of the crime, with the inevitable outcome that when people are released from prison, the whole process just ends up happening all over again.

Instead, under the Offender to Rehab programme, people with substance misuse issues are identified and referred to residential rehab facilities. Once their addiction is treated, they are highly likely to stop stealing.

Brendan Musgrove, of TSS, which sponsored the scheme, said: “TSS are proud to be able to support the Offender to Rehab program and help people looking to make positive change find a better a future.”

Gareth Ward, Director of Retail and Shopping Centres – Mitie, which also sponsors the scheme, added: “We were delighted to sponsor this event, and to have supported the programme since its inception.

“It is imperative that we always seek to find the right solutions to prevent crime against retailers, and the offender to rehab programme is an important part of this. To hear first-hand the impact it has had on the lives of clients was heart-warming and inspirational.”

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