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Evaluation of the Street Crime Initiative: supporting victims and witnesses of street crime: a joined-up approach

1. Introduction and overview

Victim Support is the independent national charity for people affected by crime. We provide a free and confidential service, whether or not a crime has been reported and regardless of when it happened. Staff and volunteers in local branches in the community offer emotional support, practical help and information to victims, their families and friends. Victim Support also provides the Witness Service in criminal courts to give information and support to witnesses, victims, their families and friends when they go to court.

The government launched its Street Crime Initiative (SCI) in March 2002 with the aim of reducing the incidence of street crime (robbery and theft 'snatch') in the ten worst affected areas in England.

In July 2002 the Home Office made £1.3 million available to Victim Support to provide a 'premium service' to both victims and witnesses of street crime in these ten areas. (See the Appendix for a list of those Victim Support Areas and London boroughs included2.) This funding was to cover the period up to March 2003.

This report presents an evaluation of the work of Victim Support and the Witness Service under the SCI 'premium service', funded by the Home Office. The principal objectives were:

Under the SCI, Victim Support services in the community and Witness Services in the court work together to offer a 'premium service' to all victims and witnesses of street crime3 ensuring early contact with people. Where victims and witnesses of street crime are required to give evidence in court, Victim Support and the Witness Service work in partnership with other criminal justice agencies to make sure that people feel supported, informed and reassured before, during and after any criminal proceedings. This process facilitates a seamless service between community and court-based services, and it supports witnesses in providing 'best evidence' during the trial.

1.1 Aims of the survey

The views and experiences of service providers were sought to:

The views and experiences of service users were sought to:

1.2 Methodology

The views and experiences of both service providers and service users were gathered through postal surveys. The aims of the surveys are described above.

For Witness Service users, volunteers handed out surveys to witnesses attending court for street crime trials over a two-week period during July for them to take away to complete. It was left to each service to determine the most appropriate time to do this, depending on the emotional state of the witness.

For Victim Support service users, surveys were sent out to victims with whom they had contact during January and February 2003. All completed surveys were returned direct to Victim Support's National Office for input and analysis. Young people under 16 were included in the sample and, where necessary, consent forms were included.

Analysis is on a national level. Breakdown by Victim Support Area and London boroughs would produce such small numbers that no meaningful conclusions could be made. Also, at the time of surveying, some Witness Services had not had any referrals for street crime.

Of Victim Support's service users, 42% were male and 56% female4. Breakdown by age shows that 12% of respondents were under the age of 17. 34% were aged between 18 and 45, and 55% over and including 46. 78% of respondents were white and 21% from black and minority ethnic communities5. Asked whether they had a disability, 21% (seven people) answered 'yes'.

Of Witness Service users 60% were male and 40% female. Breakdown by age shows 16% were under the age of 17. 55% were aged between 18 and 45, and 27% over and including 466. 77% of respondents were white and 19% from black and minority ethnic communities7. Asked whether they had a disability 5% (three people) answered 'yes'.

Missing data has been excluded from the analysis.

1.3 Issues

Not all the Victim Support Areas or London boroughs involved in the SCI decided to apply for funding, as there was initial confusion about who to apply to. The Home Office later devolved the full amount to the National Association of Victims Support Schemes (the National Association) so that Victim Support Areas and boroughs could apply directly. As a result, a delay in implementing the new projects was inevitable. This was experienced particularly by projects that wanted to employ paid staff in new roles such as dedicated street crime co-ordinators.

Timing and resource implications meant that Victim Support's National Office had no opportunity to allocate a dedicated project manager to co-ordinate funding, direct implementation and advise on minimum standards. Projects were given broad objectives as directed by the Home Office in their funding criteria. Funding was allocated by the Finance Department and the evaluation co-ordinated by the Research and Development Department at the National Office, which employed an external consultant and researcher to carry out the work.

Some Areas received money from other sources, such as Community Against Drugs (CAD), to implement the SCI. These are included in the analysis.

1.4 Structure of the report

Chapter two focuses on funding issues, looking at experiences of applying for and receiving funding, in particular:

Chapter three describes the findings of the Witness Service and Victim Support service provider surveys, namely:

Chapter four focuses on users of Victim Support's community services examining:

Chapter five focuses on users of the Witness Service examining:

Chapter six draws together conclusions and recommendations, looking at areas for improvement and future sustainability factors.

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