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How we're trying to help victims of thugs

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:47 02 July 2010

Ben Kendall

A system to identify repeat victims of anti-social behaviour has led to a reduction in crime reports, Norfolk police say.

In a national report, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Denis O'Connor criticised forces over the recording of information about harassment, criminal damage and verbal abuse as "inadequate" and said it must be improved immediately.

A system to identify repeat victims of anti-social behaviour has led to a reduction in crime reports, Norfolk police say.

In a national report, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Denis O'Connor criticised forces over the recording of information about harassment, criminal damage and verbal abuse as “inadequate” and said it must be improved immediately. He said more than half of the 43 forces in England and Wales could not automatically identify repeat victims, leaving officers in ignorance of some of the most vulnerable people who need help.

But Chief Supt Sarah Hamblin, who oversees anti-social behaviour for Norfolk police, said the force had introduced a system which automatically identified victims targeted by thugs - leading to a 30pc reduction in repeat callers in recent months.

It was hoped such an approach could help prevent tragedies such as the death of Fiona Pilkington who committed suicide and killed her severely disabled 18-year-old daughter after gangs repeatedly targeted them.

Chief Supt Hamblin said: “We are now placing markers on individuals and their addresses when they call into our control room so we can develop a picture of the problems they're suffering. If they are being persistently targeted we will grade their call as an 'A' - the same level as a burglary who other serious offence.

“We also look at any issues which make them particularly vulnerable, for example if they have a mental illness, and work with our partners to tailor a problem solving approach to their needs. This information is then passed to officers in their area.

“Nothing is watertight and there is always room for improvement but we believe we are ahead of the game and are beginning to see real progress. This is an issue we take very seriously.”

A snapshot survey by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary found officers across the country did not turn up to almost one in four anti-social behaviour complaints and as a result almost all those victims were unhappy with police.

In Norfolk, where more than 200 anti-social behaviour incidents are reported on an average day, police fail to attend in less than one in ten cases in which their attendance is requested. However, in many cases contact is made over the phone and victims can choose not to be visited.

Mr O'Connor said police may need to radically rethink their approach because most victims do not distinguish between anti-social behaviour and crime.

He said people wanted their home to be a safe place, adding: “An awful lot of police forces have real problems. There is a lot of

it, a lot of it is under-reported and there is a problem with nailing the intelligence around it.”

Officials at HMIC have begun further research to draw up a framework to assess the performance of police forces in tackling anti-social behaviour.

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