In 2016 the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner launched www.safespacesussex.org.uk - the first online directory of local victim services available in Sussex. Since lockdown, many support services have reached out to Katy Bourne OBE and expressed their concerns about victims of crime not feeling able to safely reach out for help at this time.
Some have seen a decrease in engagement from victims with reports of crimes (like domestic abuse) made to Sussex Police, reducing by around 4%.
"As a result, I have upgraded this website and started a campaign on social media to help victims covertly reach out for help whilst stuck in isolation – search #SafeSpaceSussex", explains Katy.
"On the homepage there is now a new search tool so that victims of any crime can find the service they need in seconds. It also has a ‘leave site now’ button that can be pressed to quickly exit the site.
"As part of the relaunch campaign, guidance has also been shared on how victims can access the new website covertly, using incognito tabs, as they may be living with their perpetrators.
"While we are all deeply affected by this ongoing pandemic, those who have, or are still experiencing crime, may well be in a heightened state of anxiety and distress.
"We may be in lockdown, but they must not feel locked out from help. If you find yourself in an emergency where you think you or others may be in immediate danger dial 999. If you are too afraid to talk, dial 55 on your mobile phone to alert the call handler that you need help but cannot speak.
"This week I joined the National Retail Crime Steering Group co-chaired by the Policing Minister and British Retail Consortium. This national group is for retailers to work together, with a range of partners, to identify good practice in the UK and address any barriers that may hinder an effective policing response to retail crime.
"As many businesses have been forced to close due to ‘lockdown’, their vacant premises are more vulnerable to being targeted by criminals seeking to make a profit from this pandemic.
"I stressed the importance of ensuring the public know that the police are still there for these business owners and that preventative measures will be put in place. I was reassured by the Policing Minister that the recruitment of the planned extra 20,000 officers from the Government’s Operation Uplift continues. In Sussex many of our new officers are already out patrolling our streets.
"We also discussed the need to deepen our understanding of the drivers of violence against retail staff and how we can collectively send a clear message that these types of crimes are not tolerated.
"In Sussex, I will soon begin consultations with local businesses in conjunction with the Force’s Business Crime Lead. I will also be working, through our Safer Sussex Business Crime Partnership (launched at the end of February), to explore and scale up successful behaviour change interventions for persistent offenders as well as easier ways for businesses to report crimes to the police.
"Business crime matters. I will continue to push for better sharing and collaboration between local businesses and the police to prevent crime where possible and proactively prosecute offenders", adds Katy.