Effects of Changing Police Priorities on Victims

John Sutherland (@policecommander) posted a blog this week titled ‘Policing Challenges in 2017’ https://policecommander.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/policing-challenges-in-2017/   An important read, it is both an honest and open blog detailing the current challenges facing the Police Service as we head into 2017 and beyond. It is a blog which is much needed in order for the general public to gain a better understanding of the questions and decisions being posed of UK Policing.

John quite rightly highlights that not everything can be a priority – that the police can’t simply ‘do it all’ – and “if we want more of something, there will have to be less of something else”.

John also points out that in making the tough decisions of what the police should or shouldn’t prioritise, will inevitably lead to a differing of opinions. Of course burglary victims will consider burglaries of primary importance, so too will anyone who has lost a close friend or family member to a drunk/drug driver. Victims of knife crime will insist knife crime be top of the agenda, whilst victims of fraud and cybercrime jostle to have top billing. Of course the ever increasing threat of terrorism and radicalisation cannot be ignored or pushed aside. And let’s not forget about CSA, CSE, Rape, Trafficking, Domestic Abuse, Forced Marriage, Honour based killings, FGM. The list is endless.

The challenges identified by John begs the question of what impact does all of this have on victims? How do we, as victims, remain confident in the Police Service that they will have the time, money and resources available to thoroughly investigate the crimes we report?

As a past victim of CSA, CSE, Rape, Trafficking and Domestic Violence, I am naturally concerned about the effect it will have on future victims if these crimes are no longer considered a priority. I can only begin to imagine the effect it would have on a victim, having finally found the courage to report one of these horrific crimes to police, to be told there is insufficient funds or no staff available to carry out forensic testing of a computer/laptop/mobile phone to gain evidence of the reported crime needed for the case to proceed. What effects would it have if Police are forced to announce they can no longer offer advice or support to those wishing to escape Domestic Violence?

What about the difference in priorities across different Police Force areas? High Risk DV victims are often forced to relocate across county borders when fleeing their abuser, something I had to do multiple times. What effect does it have on a victim if their original Police Force area considered DV as a priority crime, yet when the victim is forced to relocate into another Police Force Area, the new area considers DV to be much lower down on the priority list and therefore not able to offer the same level of support?

These are potentially very real issues facing victims. If the police cannot continue to do it all, then who is going to step up and catch the ball? Victims will be faced with having to turn to, and rely on, support agencies, organisations and charities for help, support and advice. However, how will these organisations and charities cope with the added increase in the number of individuals they will be faced with supporting, when many of these organisations/charities are struggling with funding/staffing issues themselves?

Is it time that we, as a society, have to accept that we all have a role to play in these changing and challenging times? Towards the end of last year there were calls for the topic of “consent” to be made part of compulsory education in High Schools and for “healthy relationships” to form part of the national curriculum for young children starting at age 5. Many were opposed to the idea stating that as parents they should have the ability to decide what, if any, information they share with their children and at what age. Whilst education is far from being the single solution to these growing problems, it certainly goes a long way to helping.

Has the time not come for us to face the realities listed in John’s blog and to realise that as parents, teachers, youth leaders etc. that we are going to have to fill the void being created and unless we take the necessary actions required, it could all end in disaster?