Public policy, the perils of indifference and street violence draws on original research into the views and experiences of university students - the coming generation - on the walk-on-by culture, public safety and the criminal justice system.
It calls for a systematic commitment by the police, justice system and Government to welcome and facilitate witness engagement as this will help deter street violence, support victims and improve public confidence in the Criminal Justice System.
In this response on sentencing policy for assaults, we recommend that the courts should recognise that public space violence is a major issue and that the new Sentencing Guidelines should (a) refer explicitly to the wider harm caused by stranger attacks, and (b) make clear that unprovoked attacks trigger a higher culpability.
We also recommend that (i) attacks on people using public transport or services should be viewed as no less serious than attacks on staff, and (ii) where a victim is left fearful of leaving their home or (iii) where steps are then taken to prevent witnesses from coming forward, the sentence should be heavier.
Drawing on the last full British Crime Survey, this paper shows that in 2010/11 there were 1,206,000 incidents of street violence in England and Wales. With a clear up rate of 9%, nobody was brought to justice in a million of these crimes.
With the public's fear of being mugged or attacked by a stranger running at seven times the actual risk, this is a problem that politicians and policy makers cannot afford to overlook any longer.
In a ground breaking analysis, the paper demonstrates that the public's fear of crime is related to the incidence of public space or street violence as news of such incidents travels far and wide through informal networks of family, friends and colleagues and is rarely reported in the media.
Children as young as 10 witness serious violence on the streets but few raise the experience with their teachers as they don’t believe schools are ready or able to help. These findings come from a ground-breaking study of primary school children in London conducted by Witness Confident.
The good news is that young children are predisposed to do the right thing, with almost all the 10 and 11 year old children interviewed saying if they see a child being mugged they will help the victim, call the police or chase the villain. Notably, the children were more likely to contact the police where the attacker was a stranger to them. Where they knew or could identify the attacker, different considerations (including loyalty) arose. These shoudl prompt a rethink in how the police seek information from inner city communities.