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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
'Why I turned to street crime'
Staff at Durham Prison
Even time behind bars did not prevent re-offending
Street crime in England and Wales has leapt an alarming 28% in the past year.

A 27-year-old man who has committed hundreds of offences spoke to home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw for BBC Radio 4's Today programme about what fuelled his crime spree.

He explained why fines, probation and six spells in prison did nothing to deter him.


Alex - not his real name - was 13 when he had his first brush with the law.

He was caught smoking cannabis and cautioned.

"A year later I was helping someone put some computers in a car that had been burgled," he continues.

"It turned out to be from my old junior school which I suppose looked even worse when I went to court."


I was stealing to support a drug habit and the necessity to do that overrode everything else

Alex then entered a cycle of court appearances resulting in a succession of fines, attention centre orders and probation. But nothing stopped him.

"I knew that until I committed something serious that was the way things were going to go.

"I knew I had my chances and I was just marking them off as I went along and I suppose I thought I still had plenty more left."

Even six stints in prison had no effect.

'Opportunist'

"At that time I was stealing to support a drug habit and the necessity to do that overrode any negative things.

"I was committing the easiest offences - shoplifting, theft from cars - opportunist things.

"I'd be walking down the road, see a mountain bike, jump on it and be off. It would be sold and the money would be gone within an hour and I'd be looking for something else to do."

Alex has been convicted of 35 offences but estimates he had committed closer to 500. If the drug use is included, it is "probably into the thousands".


There isn't anyone I know who commits crime because it is fun

"I would have every intention of turning up at court but something more important like needing to score usually came up.

"I'd hide away and I'd be on the run for months then I'd get arrested and end up on remand.

"It is more difficult to commit certain crimes now because of CCTV and store detectives etc.

"But you still need drugs, so you might have to do something more serious.

"I suppose that's why a lot of people do street robberies and burglaries because there's no easier crime they can commit."

Alex admits the criminal justice system does not seem to have had any effect on him.

He says criminals like himself should be involved more to "find out what the problem is".

"There isn't anyone I know who commits crime because it is fun or just for the sake of it," he said.


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See also:

19 Jul 01 | UK
04 Jan 02 | England
15 Apr 02 | England
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