Smart-phone apps are revolutionising consumer behaviour. Their potential for reducing crime and the fear of crime is considerable, though so far not sufficiently recognised. This report looks at how they can play a big part in making it easier for people to report crimes and in enabling the police and courts to provide a better experience for victims and witnesses. By giving people a degree of control over their involvement and ownership over their evidence, apps can influence attitudes across the Criminal Justice System and help it develop as a Service that is for, and is supported as such by, the public.
This report looks at the early experiences of victims and witnesses who have used the Self Evident app to report crime to the police and engage with the criminal justice process and makes recommendations on how Government and police should approach such initiatives.
Where forces have set up arrangements to handle app crime reports, as most now have, two thirds of users were satisfied with the police response. Though the survey was of early experiences with the Self Evident app and so the sample small, this finding is promising because the police are having to adapt very quickly to this new technology.
Witness Confident, the charity behind the Self Evident app, believes such initiatives will determine the success of moves to recast the Criminal Justice System as a Service, which is seen and supported as such by the public. “Victims and witnesses have a choice whether to report crime. Respecting them and respecting this should be at the heart of any reforms”, says the charity.
Apart from the convenience crime reporting apps offer, they also enable people to record an early account of what happened, to attach photos and video, and to keep a copy of their report and evidence. “By giving victims and witnesses a sense of ownership and control over their involvement, apps can give people the confidence to come forward”, says the charity.
Witness Confident wants Government to encourage more social enterprises and community initiatives in this area and to ensure that the arrangements it oversees do not stifle innovation or distort competition. The charity is calling on ministers to make clear whether they expect victims and witnesses to pay for these services or whether the costs will come from public funds.
As 97% of users want the police to encourage people to report crime by smart-phone, the charity is recommending that police chiefs and Police & Crime Commissioners provide information about such apps on their websites.
The app works automatically in England and Wales.
It puts power in the public's hands and lets people
- secure legally sound evidence of the crime,
- record a reliable statement,
- validate the evidence for an insurance or compensation claim, and
- file a crime report with the police from their smartphone.