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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Teenagers face up to Carlisle shops they stole from

None of the teenagers who were made to answer to their victims after being caught shoplifting in Carlisle city centre last year have gone on to steal again from stores, say police.

Richard Higgin photo
Richard Higgin

Officers say asking offenders to explain themselves to security guards, store workers and their own parents appears to have worked with the impact of what they did apparently hitting home.

Police in Carlisle city centre have been using the method, known as restorative justice, since the start of last year.

They say about 15 per cent of offences where people are caught shoplifting are now being dealt with by this tactic, with four cases alone in the last week.

In Cumbria this is usually used with shoplifters who are under-17 who have carried out “low level” thieving.

They tend to be first-time offenders who admit what they have done.

Sergeant Richard Higgin, who works the city centre beat, told the News & Star: “It is about getting people who commit crimes to face up to what they’ve done and the consequences of their actions.”

The person caught sits down with somebody representing the shop, usually with a parent present in a meeting chaired by the police.

They are asked what happened, what they were thinking about, what they have thought about the offence since it happened, who has been affected – and what needs to happen next. The store worker will explain the affect on the shop and how business could be hit if they lose property.

Sgt Higgin added: “We then turn to the child’s parents and say: ‘How did you feel when you got a phone call from the police?’ They are usually devastated.”

This often leads to an emotional response from the teen, said Sgt Higgin. “Everyone we’ve dealt with has never reoffended,” he added.

The method is an alternative to prosecution. A typical case in Carlisle would feature a 14 or 15-year-old, stealing an item such as make-up or deodorant.

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