On 9 September 2009, Witness Confident launched focusing on the growing problem of street violence. Listen to the interview on BBC Radio 4 Today's programme here.
Strictly embargoed to 00.01 hrs Wednesday 9/9/9
Call for witnesses to reverse rise in street violence
If you were mugged on a busy high street, how confident are you that any of the people who witnessed the attack would give a statement to the police?
Contact: Guy Dehn - 0777 9486377
The recent rise in violent street attacks can only be reversed if more witnesses are given the confidence that they can make a difference, says Witness Confident the new charity launching today (9/9/9).
11% rise in street attacks last year
Drawing on the latest official figures, Witness Confident says that last year people were attacked by complete strangers some 850,000 times – an 11% increase from the previous year. Eight out of every ten times, the assault went unreported or unresolved and the attacker was left to carry on regardless.
With a recent internal report from Scotland Yard revealing that only one in a thousand CCTV cameras will help convict a criminal each year, Witness Confident says this rising tide of street violence can only be turned by engaging the public when they witness these attacks.
Real campaigns, real help
Witness Confident will campaign that the Criminal Justice System should recognise witnesses as the eyes and ears of the community. The charity will pilot new solutions such as developing Google maps for witness alerts and use new technology to simplify making statements.
Heralding this practical approach, the charity – for the first time in Britain – sets out guidance for people who witness street crime on how they can engage with the Criminal Justice System with minimum frustration.
Neil Svensen, chairman of Witness Confident, who has developed its identity and message explains “It was important to be involved with a charity which will make the system better and not just help people through the arrangements that operate now.”
Time to change the walk-on-by culture
The charity is confident that real progress can be made. Guy Dehn, director of Witness Confident, says “Over the past year it has become increasingly clear that the frustration of the public is matched by the frustration of police officers, lawyers and judges about this walk-on-by culture.”
While welcoming the steps that have made things better for those few witnesses who do attend court, Mr Dehn observes “If we are going to tackle the root of this problem, we need to build up public confidence and stop stoking up people’s fears,” says Mr Dehn. “The fact is these days far too many people assume that if they take the trouble to get involved, it will just cause them grief”.
Notes to Editor
The charity’s launch is at 11 am on Wednesday 9th September. The launch will cover-
* The full picture about rising levels of street violence
* How the Criminal Justice System overlooks independent witnesses
* Why it is wrong to blame the media for public anxiety about crime
* What this charity will be doing to reverse these trends.
About Witness Confident
Witness Confident is a registered charity number 1131106. It has been set up to take a stand against the walk-on-by culture that fuels street violence, feeds fear and fractures communities. It is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, Allen Lane Foundation and private donors and supporters including Rufus Leonard, the brand & digital media agency.
NB Almost all the media ignored the peg used in this release around the date – 9/9/9: 999 emergency call for witnesses. Instead the focus was on the suggestion raised by some college students that local groups think about the idea of holding mock muggings. As this suggestion was not mentioned in our release and only appears way down in our original site hidden deep in the community actions section, the attention it generated was as surprising as it was welcome.
Aside from the Today programme, the launch was also covered on the Jeremy Vine show, Five Live, BBC New Channel, the BBC website and Sky News. Twelve regional radio shows used our launch to start debates on the walk-on-by culture and, nationally, Five Live’s Nicky Campbell did an inspiring one hour phone-in.
The issue clearly struck a chord with the public, generating almost 1500 comments on the BBC website before the debate closed after a day and a half. In the national press, the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail covered the story.