Crime victims biting back

February 10, 1995

Recorded crime in Huddersfield is down 30 per cent after the first three months of a Manchester University project aimed at preventing repeat victimisation. And the lessons learned may allow crime against student housing to be cut.

"Biting Back Together" was launched by Professor Ken Pease after his own analysis of crime statistics showed that 4 per cent of the population suffered 40 per cent of the crime.

With the help of West Yorkshire police, a crime-mapping system has been developed, enabling the research team to receive daily details of all property and car crime. The police send all victims a package including a free post-coding pen for marking property and a personalised letter advising on crime prevention measures.

Police visit near neighbours of the victim to ask them to keep a close watch out for a repeat strike during the most vulnerable period, the next six weeks - a system known as "cocoon watch".

Sylvia Chenery, a researcher on the project, said that community response had been overwhelming, as the reduced crime figures for October to December indicated. "We would like to think the Biting Back project had something to do with it," said Ms Chenery.

"Repeat victimisation has an incredibly traumatic effect, particularly on domestic victims," she said. Reasons identified for repeat burglaries include the theft of keys in the first raid, the burglar "mapping out his territory", or properties not being boarded up securely.

Victims are graded bronze, silver or gold by the researchers and those deemed at greater risk receive a visit from a crime prevention officer. A "gold" response can include the loan of detection devices ranging from surveillance cameras to vehicle trackers. A number of suspects have been caught as a result.

"The project has put together crime prevention and crime detection. In the past police forces have treated them separately," said Ms Chenery. "Every week we have other forces from across the country coming to see how the project works."

A University of Huddersfield researcher, Rob Wallace, is studying the effectiveness of the project for student households. His aim is to draw up a grading system for local landlords showing which ones take security seriously.

The Manchester project has a Pounds 69,000 Home Office grant as well as funds from the police and local authority and three seconded police officers.

It runs until September, by which time the team hopes to have formulated a workable scheme for the whole West Yorkshire force.

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