EX-BURGLARS from Burnley who have turned their back on a life of crime have told how they have been helped by a pioneering project.
“I was about eight years old. I had a lot of problems during my childhood and I rebelled against everyone,” he said. “I started sniffing aerosols. I started going out thieving because the glue was costing me quite a bit of money.”
John used to break into garden sheds and steal power tools which he could sell quickly.
He said he has spent 12 out of the last 17 years in prison and, over the years, his habit spiralled to include a cocktail of drugs which ultimately included heroin and crack.
Now clean from drugs for six months, John is one of a number of ex-offenders being helped by Revolution, a multi-agency project which allows people like him to access help should they want it.
Dedicated police officers, staff, probation officers and drug treatment workers are among a number of specialists working together to resolve problems surrounding accommodation, education, employment, physical and mental health, finance and substance misuse which may be at the root of criminal behaviour.
“My coping strategy has been to get off my head and bury my head in the sand. I feel proud that I am finally stepping up to the mark, growing up and accepting my responsibilities. The project has been a massive help to me and I am now building bridges with my family. Without it I would probably be in prison.”
Another man, who we will call Wayne, said the project had helped him turn his life around.
He has a total of 33 prison sentences for burglary-related offences after getting into crime with a gang of school friends aged 11. He said he realised he needed to change his life when he lost contact with those closest to him.The 38-year-old now has a part-time job and is set to travel to Germany with his volunteer group.
But both John and Wayne agreed the project can only be successful if offenders want to help themselves.
A police spokeswoman said: “If a person has no accommodation, employment or perhaps they are having money problems it can cause them to look to crime as a way to provide for themselves. Similarly, health or family problems can lead to substance misuse, which in turn can lead to the person committing crime to fund their habit.
“By dealing with these problems and fast-tracking people into getting treatment, we can look to reduce and then hopefully eradicate, a person’s offending behaviour.”
The Revolution team deals with prolific offenders, those involved in burglary and car crime, and those who are known to have substance abuse issues.
The spokeswoman added: “The Revolution process has been in place for some time, albeit under a different guise, and over the last 12 months we have seen a 41% reduction in the re-offending rate of the most prolific of the Revolution offenders.
“If a person decided not to engage with the Revolution project then instead of receiving the help and support of the team they would be robustly targeted, arrested and placed before the court if they chose to continue offending.”
Shona Drummond, of the Lancashire Probation Trust, said: “Agencies working together are able to recognise diversity and embrace local knowledge to implement effective ways of reducing re-offending and help create a safer community for people across Lancashire.”