For more years than I care to remember I have written statements about crime and have always thought I understood the views of victims of crime. That was until I became a victim myself a few days ago. It wasn’t the crime of the century but the impact it has had on my life is significant.
I woke to find my vehicle had a number of parts stripped from it. No-one had seen anything, there was no CCTV, and there were no forensic opportunities because of the heavy rain. Clearly, it had been stolen to order and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.
As many would say, it is just property, and they are right. But the cost of replacing the items is so much that it will involve an insurance claim. In turn this will, I am sure, mean an increase cost for my car insurance when it is next due. I am angry that while I work hard to afford things, somebody feels they can help themselves to what is not theirs. It is not this financial cost that has been the impact on me. The biggest issue is the mental stress it has caused. As it happened near home, it is unnerving and has made me unsettled. I am watching for every move and person near home. I feel as though my personal space has been violated.
I suddenly realised that I haven’t really understood a lot of what I have been doing at work. I haven’t understood the mental impact of crime on people. I have probably been dismissive of the huge impact that crime and antisocial behaviour can have on people’s lives. What are we doing to help people when they have become victims? And when I talk about ‘we’ I mean the communication team. We focus a lot on encouraging people to come forward and provide information so that we can find the offenders and bring them to justice. We talk about providing ‘reassurance’ to people and communities when something has happened. But do we ever do anything to help people when they have unfortunately become victims?
It is easy to say that this is, or should be, the responsibility of the Victim Support service of other charities. But working in the police service provides us with a unique opportunity to be able to ensure that victims voices are heard. We can recognise the traumatic experience that people have been through, whatever the nature of the crime is. Above all, we have to be able to treat everyone as an individual.
I am very lucky that I am surrounded by wonderful family and friends who have been doing all they can to help me through this experience. Many are not so lucky. They may be alone, old or vulnerable. Who is there for them?
I know I will get through this difficult experience but one thing is clear it has given me a new lens to look through every day when dealing with communication about crimes.