Posted: Friday 26th August 2016
This week marks 100 days since I took up this role, so I feel it was particularly apt to celebrate with the announcement that Leicestershire Police is recruiting 100 new police officers.
My short time in office has only served to reinforce the importance of officer visibility for public confidence and satisfaction. That’s why I am so keen to see more officers out in our communities, and importantly representative of those communities.
I believe that we need to work harder to understand the true impact of violence and sexual exploitation as so much of it remains unreported. Victims of hidden brutality such as Honour Based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Forced Marriage and Domestic Violence are among the most vulnerable people in society. Despite wanting an end to their suffering, remaining silent often presents itself as a safer alternative and many continue to live in fear.
Reaching these anonymous survivors is a challenge and can only successfully be achieved by increasing confidence in the police and indeed the whole criminal justice process. Victims require support and protection but they also need faith in the system that is offering that protection.
In Leicester City, work is taking place across the partnership landscape to strengthen our safeguarding processes and build on the support currently available. We know that the police are sometimes the last port of call for a victim crippled with fear. This means the whole spectrum of professionals they may encounter in other ways from health and social workers to teachers and nursery staff must be vigilant to the signs. We need to arm organisations with the knowledge they need to spot the dangers and act on their instincts.
As part of the City Partnership Locality fund, we are investing £35k into the Respect Young People’s programme to provide enhanced training and intervention to families experiencing domestic violence in 2016/17. This type of prevention package has been developed and trialled by Respect across six or seven areas previously through the National Lottery’s Realising Ambition programme which helps young people fulfil their potential and avoid pathways into offending.
The funding covers five days of training for 16 local practitioners across a range of local agencies and follow-up monthly tuition/training for 12 months. It will also cover an additional part-time role to work within the scope of violence and abuse and there are plans to involve Leicester University to track positive outcomes.
A further £41k will fund a Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) intervention specialist to talk to children missing from home or care who are at risk of CSE.
By joining up our efforts and improving communication across different organisations, we can better protect those at risk of harm from hidden crime, including of course cybercrime which represents a growing threat.
Leicester City Council already provides a raft of services including refuge provision, a families’ service supporting parents and children seeking to prevent child witnesses from becoming future perpetrators and a perpetrator programme delivered by the Jenkins Centre for those offenders who are committed to changing their behaviour.
It is true that figures show an increase in the number of domestic abuse reports, but many of these relate to the same incident which suggests no obvious increase in confidence to come forward across the wider community. It is clear that more work is needed to encourage people to speak out and seek help, confident that they will receive appropriate care and support. We cannot rely on the statistics alone to tell the story - we need to reach the victims whose voices remain unheard.
We all have a responsibility to help people who are victims of crime, particularly those who may be afraid to come forward. No-one should have to suffer in silence.
Please, if you think something looks suspicious report it either to the police, a specialist support group or Crimestoppers.