We had a break-in on Thursday night, last week. An intruder smashed an outside window, forced their way under the meshing which protected the glass and got into the church. The alarms went off and the intruder, a white, male, would have known that they only had a brief opportunity before somebody arrived. It seems that they may have been familiar with the lay-out of the building. There is very little that is accessible of any value, but they smashed the new till we had just bought for the Social Supermarket, and took the thirty quid we had foolishly left in it. They got out of the building shortly before the police arrived and fled into the underpass. There are a number of CCTV images and police are investigating.
When something like this happens there are lessons to be learned and thoughts to be considered.
Our till is broken now beyond repair. It will be another £150 to replace it. If we do replace it we definitely won’t be leaving any cash in it overnight and we will leave it open so any robbers don’t need to break it to see that its empty. To be fair, the thief was clearly after money and was not intent on pointless criminal damage. That said, we have had a quote for fixing the broken window – just over 3 grand!
There has been a significant loss of staff time dealing with the ramifications of the break in. We have installed extra extra locks and bolts so than any future intrusion won’t reach the main part of the building. Organising this and dealing with the police meant I didn’t get a funding application finished. Maybe that’s another £10k that we have lost out on. The direct impact on our bank balance is going to be considerable. Potentially we are going to have less than £3000 as much as we would have. Money we can no longer spend on food for Social Supermarket members, and the first digit will go up when we have added the cost of more CCTV. All this so that one person goes home with thirty quid, for which they went to a lot of trouble, and still certainly has potential to be caught.
Why would someone damage others wellbeing so much for the sake of £30? (And another robbery won’t even get £30!)
Well, I guess they hope to come away with more. And I guess they had not thought through the costs to St Mary’s and the implications on our resources. Perhaps they believed that “they will claim it all on insurance – and insurance companies are loaded so there is not really any cost to St Mary’s.” (Actually, we are not going to claim on insurance because it will force our premium up by a huge amount - for years to come – and the insurance won’t cover the whole cost anyway. This is besides us calculating the staff time and potential loss of grant income.)
So, when we ask “Why would someone do this?” perhaps we need to change the framing of the question to explain why it is that had the thoughts that they did. Why did they feel this was not only a moral way of getting money but the easiest option? Why was this easier than having a job and fitting in as a conventional citizen? Clearly the conventional pathway is one that he felt was with not available to him, or was so unattractive that he would rather break, enter and steal from a church.
This man will almost certainly repeat the offense of robbery if he is not caught beforehand – and will most likely be put in jail. A year in jail costs society another £44,000. (That’s down by 15% too!) In jail he will join a community of felons, 27% of whom will have been in the care system at some point in their childhood. Of under 25’s in jail, 50% will have grown up in Care Homes. And when he gets out of jail there is a 47% chance he will reoffend within a year. This goes up to a 60% chance if he was in jail for a petty offense (i.e. a sentence of under a year).
Whatever happens, there are no winners here. Not St Mary’s, not society and not our robber, who may well be somebody who has grown up in care. Its not only in his interests to change the way he and those like him view their life options – its in our interest to.
What has been or could be our role in this? How can we transform the way he experiences his relationship to the world? What can we do at St Mary’s to make him feel it would be a more fulfilling option to come and talk to us about why he sees breaking into a church in the middle of a February night, as his best way of getting on in the world?
I’d give him thirty quid if he would come help me find the answers to these questions. He would be a consultant and together we could try and turn a lose – lose situation into a win-win one.