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14 May 2011, 08:00
200 of Hertfordshire's most prolific offenders are being helped lead a crime-free life after prison.
Herts Horizons is aimed at reducing offending by the county's top 200 low-level criminals - those 10 women and 180 men (aged 18-30s) who conduct criminal offences including burglary, robbery, thefts from homes and motor vehicles.
These 200 criminals are responsible for 1 in 5 crimes in the whole county - getting them back on the straight and narrow, it's hoped, will significantly reduce those type of crimes in Hertfordshire.
The programme for each individual, will look at the underlying reasons for their offending and will help them access a range of services, including drug and alcohol support, education, employment training and even health and relationship support.
On average, for each crime comitted, it costs £178,000 a year per offender - for the group as a whole - that's a cost to society - including policing and court costs of nearly £36m.
DI Diane Watson told heart the programme is "not a soft option - we will spell out to each offender the consquences of their actions when leaving prison or being out on licence, should they re-offend. The Herts Horizons is there not only to help the individual criminal, but will cut the financial impact of their prolific crimes not just on society, but on the victims too".
Once on the programme, the individuals will be assigned a dedicated point of contact at the Police and the Probation service - who will regularly visit them to not only check they're keeping out of trouble, but to offer immediate advice and help in whatever issue is stopping them getting back into society.
DI Watson added "PCSO's and local beat officers and the local council will be made aware of each individual who's on the programme and where they're living - so they can be kept an eye on - safeguarding both them and the public at large".
Each person will be monitored for a minimum of 12 months - if they're crime free - they'll come off the programme - if they commit crime, the police will re-arrest them and the process starts from scratch.
So far, 80% of the 200 most prolific criminals have agreed to take part in the programme and DCI Julie Wheatley says one way or another, the remaining 20% will be firmly encouraged to take part and they'll be given support and guidance in other ways.
The result of the programme upon the first batch of criminals will be assessed constantly, and how successful that is will be known in around 6 months time.