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Covering your tracks

Crime prevention lessons ‘essential’ for protecting children from violent crimes, new report says

9 December 2014

A new report has found that 10 to 18 year-olds are more likely to be victims of crime than any other group, but only three in 20 violent crimes against children are reported, despite serious injuries.

The report by Victim Support and the University of Bedfordshire, ‘Suffering in Silence: Children and Unreported Crime’, was published today for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

The report finds that some young people perceive crimes including robbery, theft and assault as a ‘normal part of growing up’ and many young victims do not report crimes. It also suggests that children and young people need to be given lessons in crime prevention and what to do if they are the victim of crime in the same way as they are taught about sex, alcohol and drugs.

Many children said they did not trust police so would not tell them if they were a victim of crime and others said they worried police would not believe them or would discriminate against them because of their age or race.

Some young people also believed reporting the crime would create further problems for them or have little faith that the police would even solve the crime. Instead, they would only tell a parent, teacher, carer or social worker about a crime if they had an established, trusting relationship with them.

The report recommends that teachers, social workers and medical staff get training to empower and support young crime victims appropriately, and for every school to have a commitment to keep their pupils safe.

Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham and chair of the APPG for victims and witnesses of crime, said: “This research is a snapshot but confirms what I have been told on many occasions by children and young people. I am committed to looking more deeply into the questions this research raises to make sure children and young people get the support they need if they become the victim of a crime.

“Understanding crime, how to avoid becoming a victim and how to report it should be on the national curriculum just like education about sex, alcohol and drugs.

“But, care should be taken that the role police, teachers, medical staff and social workers play in supporting children and young people does not reinforce the fears they say they have about telling someone about a crime and so discourage them from telling anyone.

“It is only if they feel that they can go to the police that the perpetrators can be caught and punished – and hopefully future victims prevented.”

Karen Froggatt, director, overseeing Victim Support’s specialist work with child crime victims and witnesses, said: “Children and young people need to be given the confidence to talk to professionals – including the police – about what’s happened to them. The police have to improve the way they treat children and young people. Other professionals must also be equipped to support young crime victims who, for whatever reason, feel they cannot go to the police.

“Our team sees first-hand the devastating impact a crime can have on children and young people. Regardless of whether they’ve gone to the police, we offer confidential advice and support. And, if they have to testify in court, our team is there to support them.

“As well as supporting children and young people directly, Victim Support shares its expertise by training staff in other organisations so that crime victims get the support they need and the respect they deserve.” 

Last year alone, the number of child victims of serious crime, abuse or neglect would fill 3,300 classrooms. Of those classrooms 950 would be filled by victims of sexual abuse. Victims of neglect would fill 2,400, victims of abduction would fill 20, and murdered children would fill at least two.

Victim Support has also been working on the development of a smart phone app with personalised instructions to help a young person escape immediate danger and on a new website which explains what it is like to be the victim of a range of crimes and what to do if they become a crime victim. These will be available in January 2015.