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Issue No. 357 May 2012

Focus on victims to aid prevention

A new approach for working with victims is expected to significantly impact crime rates.

The approach, called Victim Focus, is being piloted in Tasman and Waikato Districts. It aims to make an excellent response to victims part of everyday operational practice, says the project’s leader Senior Sergeant Bronwyn Marshall.

The approach is supported by crime science, which says crime or disorder needs an offender, a location and a victim. “We’re generally good at the offenders and the locations. This approach puts equal emphasis on victims - particularly repeat victims,” she says.

“Too often the same people in our communities fall victim to crime time and again. Six percent of the population are victims in 54 percent of the crime.”

Victim Focus is a key part of the Prevention First strategy. “Stopping someone being a victim is stopping crime from happening,” says Bronwyn.

The initiative has several strands that make the most of new case management processes and tasking and coordination.

A Graduated Response Model (summarised for officers in a notebook card) guides staff in how they should respond to a victim. The more times a person has been victimised, the more thorough the response should be. “A repeat victim needs extra effort, such as a follow-up phone call or referral to another agency,” says Bronwyn.

Victim Focus is expected to roll out nationally from September. From November, staff will be alerted automatically if they make a QP (query person) about someone who has been victimised in the previous 12 months, as they are if someone has previously offended.

District Victim Managers will be established in each district, as either a dedicated position or a portfolio holder. They will champion Victim Focus, ensure the needs of repeat victims are met and that they receive the expected level of service.

The more times a person has been victimised, the more thorough officers' response should be.
Photo: Constable Rob Honeybone, Auckland Forensic Imaging

Victims thought to be at particularly high risk of suffering further crime will be monitored at district tasking and coordination meetings and have intervention plans built around them. Other agencies will be consulted on how these priority victims can be better supported.

It’s vital officers capture full and accurate details about victims every time they attend a scene so intelligence about them is useful and accurate, says Bronwyn.

“Victim Focus requires a change of mindset which may take some getting used to,” she says. “But if you spend five minutes helping someone avoid further victimisation, chances are it will save a lot more time down the line.”

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