Program Goal/Target Population
Biting Back was implemented as part of a larger initiative, the Police Operations Against Crime program, and ran from October 1994 until March 1996 in the Huddersfield, England, area. This program was commissioned by the Home Office Police Research Group to contribute to an understanding and prevention of repeat victimization. The program targeted repeat victimization from domestic burglary and theft from cars. While the aim of the program was to reduce repeat victimization as in other, similar programs, it was also designed to demonstrate that this type of program could successfully be implemented on a larger, division-wide scale.
Since one of the biggest predictors of future victimization is having previously been victimized, police identified repeat victims and offered rising levels of response and support according to the number of times victims had been victimized.
The key steps for this program were as follows:
· Quantification of repeat victimization and its representation in official crime statistics
· Identification of repeat victims
· Establishment of program components, such as Cocoon Watch and Police Watch (see below), and availability of equipment for temporary installation (videos, alarms)
· Training of police to make them aware of the problem of repeat victimization and its impact; liaison with local authority
· Monitoring of the program
Through analysis of available police data and working with victims, police established that there were many repeat burglaries and car crimes in the Huddersfield area, the repeat crime usually happened quickly after the initial incident, and there were problems in police data recognizing repeats as such.
To deal with the issue of initial as opposed to repeat victimization, the police developed a tiered response. After the first victimization, the victim receives a “bronze response,” which includes components such as a personalized letter for the victim and a packet that included crime prevention advice, as well as discount vouchers for security equipment. After a second incident, police implement the “silver response,” which includes activities such as a visit from a Crime Prevention Officer and police watch visits. After a third incident, police implement the “gold response,” which can include increased police watches and the actual installation of high-tech equipment, such as alarms and covert cameras, by the police (such installations may not be permanent, however).
A variety of technologies have been incorporated into the program, including the following:
· Index Solutions (Smart Water). This system marks offenders with a dye that is invisible in normal lighting.
· Tracker. This device can be installed on targets of burglary (in this case, boilers) so the device can be tracked and recovered.
· Monitored alarms. This type of alarm was originally used to monitor the elderly/infirm, but was offered to victims.
Other components include:
· Cocoon watches. Immediate neighbors are alerted about the crime and invited to be vigilant for the victim and the property in question. Neighbors are given contact information to report any suspicious activity.
· Police watches. Police patrols are deployed to the area of crime on a twice-weekly (silver response) or daily (gold response) basis, around the time of day the crime had occurred.
The following individuals and groups were critical to the Huddersfield Biting Back program. Some of these roles may be modified, depending on the level of problems being addressed and the resources of the department.
Coordinator. The coordinator served as the police divisional “champion” and was responsible for monitoring the project’s success. This individual was responsible for liaising with external partners and deciding which response should be implemented, based on information from the investigating officers and the vulnerability of the victim.
Crime Prevention Officer (CPO). The selection of a CPO helped signify the key role of crime prevention alongside detection in the department. This officer visited all repeat victims and worked with the coordinator to determine what equipment should be installed. The CPO also helped survey areas to identify environmental factors and changes that could be the catalyst for increased criminal activity.
Analysts. These individuals scanned the Crime Information System and crime pattern analysis system daily to find “hidden” repeats.
Administrator. This individual oversaw the distribution of personalized letters and crime prevention packages to victims and also handled inquiries from other agencies and police forces.
Section Liaison Officers. These officers were selected from outlying stations to help engage officers from these outlying areas. They maintained a range of security equipment for loan to victims and passed on information from teams in their areas.
For Huddersfield, important partners included the local authority, which helped with repairs and security upgrades; victim support, which stayed in touch with the analyst for up-to-date information; the University of Huddersfield, which undertook a student victimization survey, launched a campus crime campaign, and worked with students’ landlords to ensure security upgrades had been made; the media, which helped deliver information about crime prevention and victim vulnerability; and the victims, who helped by implementing precautions quickly.