Ex-Con Larry Lawton to Become Honorary Police Officer, Continue Mentoring Youth

Aug 06, 2013 11:29 AM EDT

One of the most notorious jewel thieves in America has served his time in federal prison, now finding redemption in mentoring children and teens about the realities of crime. Now, he’s becoming an honorary police officer in the Lake St. Louis Police Department in Missouri, according to Fox News.

Larry Lawton stole $15 million worth of jewelry and spent 11 years behind bars, only to now write a book chronicling his journey call Gangster Redemption.

“You see too many young people coming to prisons – and the system doesn’t help them,” Lawton said on Fox News. “When you get out, you have to feel like you can make a difference in this world. It’s not about money in this world, it really isn’t.”

Police Chief Michael Force of the Lake St. Louis Police Department said on Fox he knows everyone makes mistakes. Chief Force said Lawton has done a great job of turning his life around and really making a 180-degree change.

“To go from making bad decisions to helping others make good decisions – that’s really a message we want to send to our youth,” Chief Force said. “We, hopefully, want to make a difference in their lives.”

Lawton said the program is called “Reality Check.” In it, Lawton builds the curriculum around his credibility, he said. It’s broken into four parts: what prison is really like, what you’re going to lose, how to avoid bad associations and how to dissolve bad associations. His work with the Lake St. Louis Police Department also is about breaking down the “us against them” mentality much of society has with law enforcement.

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“If an ex-con, like myself -- a pretty bad guy -- can turn around and be recognized – but not just recognized, continue to help Lake St. Louis and police departments all over the country, then I think that’s important,” Lawton said.

Far too often, Chief Force sees people in and out of the criminal justice system. This is a great way to combat recidivism.

“I can talk about how bad prison is until I’m blue in the face, but when Mr. Lawton tells them, he’s been there and he brings an awful lot of credibility,” Chief Force said.

Chief Force said Tuesday afternoon that everything happens for a reason. He and Lawton are men of deep faith who have connection on a very meaningful level, Chief Force said.

“We all make mistakes in our life. We carry those burdens and it takes us down the wrong path. We need to move on and get back on the right path,” Chief Force said. “Larry spent his life making bad choices. Now he’s a man of deep faith and truly has changed his life. What a wonderful way to help others from making those same choices.”

Born and raised in the Bronx and Brooklyn, Lawton spent six years in the Coast Guard before making some bad choices which led him to associations with organized crime, according to his website, lawton911.com.