Guest blog post from Emma Martin, New Zealand Police.
Greetings again from the Victim of Crime Life Event (VoCLE) team based at Police National Headquarters. In our last post, we provided some background about our project. In this post, we’ll share some of what we’ve learned about victims of crime, in the context of integrated service delivery.
People may not see themselves as ‘victims’
‘Victim’ has a specific legal meaning within the Victims’ Right Act 2002. But the term may not always match people’s own understanding of, or way of describing, their situations.
Chief Victims Advisor to Government Dr Kim McGregor (who is a member of our Stewardship Group) acknowledges on her website:
The use of the term ‘victim’ is often controversial. I am aware that some may prefer the term ‘survivor’, ‘people who have been victimised’ or not to be labelled at all. I have continued to use the term ‘victim’ for the sake of consistency with legislation and other agencies in the justice system. The term ‘victim’ is not meant as a value judgment on those who have experienced crime, or to exclude those who do not identify with that particular term.
The VoCLE initiative aims to improve services to people who meet the legal definition of being a victim of crime, but we’ve been careful not to assume this means creating a single product or brand ‘for victims’.
We’ve taken a human-centred approach, aiming to understand the ways people think about their own situations. This can influence how people seek information or support (e.g. search terms they might enter into Google when searching online).
The needs and experiences of victims of crime are extremely diverse
The impacts of crime can vary from minor inconvenience to profound and devastating trauma. Of the estimated 865,000 victims of crime in 2014(1), 46% said they were affected ‘very much’ or ‘quite a lot’(2).
The interactions that victims of crime have with service providers are also extremely varied. For example, victims of the most serious crimes may have access to a range of support services and entitlements which are not available to, or not used by, victims of less serious crimes.
When we think of victims of crime, we might assume that one thing most victims will have in common is contact with the Police and/or other justice sector agencies such as Courts. But in fact it’s estimated that only one third of crimes are reported to Police. For some crimes, the rate is far lower (for sexual assaults, less than one in ten(3)). Overall, about a third of crimes reported to Police result in an arrest, prosecution and/or conviction(4).
Victims of crime (whether or not they report to Police) may seek or receive support from a range of other sources. These include:
- Family, friends or neighbours (29%)
- Providers of other informal support (e.g. church groups, iwi/Maori/Pacific organisations, Neighbourhood Support, colleagues, employers or fellow students) (8.4%)
- Victim Support (5.6%)
- Medical professionals (3.3%)
- Providers of referral services (e.g. Citizens Advice Bureau, Court Services for Victims, Victims of Crime information line, and work-based professional support) (3.1%)
- Other government agency or community services (3.0%)
- Specialist services (e.g. Rape Crisis, Women’s Refuge, Salvation Army) (1.6%)(5)
Crime impacts disproportionately on some sectors of New Zealand society, including Māori, and people experiencing financial hardship or living in more highly deprived areas:
Service relationships are important
When it comes to general administrative interactions with government such as renewing car registration or paying tax, the main focus for improving service experience is often to reduce the inconvenience of the interaction, and perhaps even remove the need to interact at all.
But when victims of crime interact with service providers, they may also be seeking support and reassurance. For example, when a burglary victim calls the Police to report what has happened, they are probably feeling frightened, unsafe or in shock. In an online survey we carried out with burglary victims, we found that the most common reason given for a positive service experience with Police related to the personal qualities of the staff they had contact with:
These kinds of interactions go beyond the merely functional. One of our key design goals is to support and strengthen these service relationships.
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(1) 2014 New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey. These figures do not include manslaughter, homicide, crimes against children (14 years and under), commercial crime/white-collar crime/crimes against businesses or public sector agencies, e-crime/online offences, ‘victimless crimes’ such as drug offences, crimes against people who do not live in permanent private dwellings, or crimes against people living in institutions.
(2) 2014 New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey.
(3) Responding to sexual violence Attrition in the New Zealand criminal justice system
(4) Mossman E (2012)Victims of crime in the adult criminal justice system: A stocktake of the literature.