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'One size doesn’t fit all' when it comes to victim satisfaction

Superintendent Ben Clark discussed the findings of his research at the Society of Evidence Based Policing conference last Thursday.

To what extent a police phone call improves victim satisfaction may be dependent on the type of crime they have reported, according to a Met officer who used non-deployable officers and staff to assess its impact.

Superintendent Ben Clark looked at about ten weeks’ worth of crime committed in the London boroughs of Camden and Islington, specifically isolating around 1,000 offences involving cycle theft or theft of/from a motor vehicle.

The idea was to conduct randomised control trials for both crime types which would determine whether "a phone call or a bit or personalised contact" affects victim satisfaction.

Supt Clark explained his rationale while presenting at the Society of Evidence Based Policing Conference last Thursday.

He said: "Talking to victims and making them satisfied is what we should be doing anyway…I found it really surprising that nobody had properly evaluated it to date at that point.

“...I thought, we’re missing a trick here. This is an opportunity to improve satisfaction really quickly, really easily through that intervention that takes place – we’ve got the resources in place."

Those resources existed in the form of non-deployable officers and staff who were used to "minimise the operational impact" of the experiment, which involved victims receiving a different level of care depending on whether they were in a treatment or control group.

While those in both groups received the standard letter sent following the reporting of a crime, Supt Clark explained that victims in the treatment group received a reassuring phone call.

“I am a local officer, I work on the area where your crime has been reported, I’ve read your crime report, I’m a real human being…"

The victims - who didn't know that they were part of this experiment - were then surveyed according to the same metrics used by MOPAC in its main victim satisfaction survey.

What emerged from their responses was "quite surprising", said Supt Clark.

"In most metrics there was a statistically significant difference in terms of cycle theft – in some cases with satisfaction improving by up to 15%...

“With the exception of reporting process which didn’t really come into this experiment, we saw positive differences with cycle theft victims across all the other metrics.

“I cannot see the same positive response for vehicle crime as I could for cycle theft…why is that?"

While impossible to prove at this stage, he believes it’s "probably to do with whether the service meets expectations", which differ depending on the crime.

Supt Clark argued that while "most people don't" expect to get their bike back when they report it stolen, more likely doing so for insurance purposes, vehicle theft comes with different expectations.

"The government has said vehicle crime is a priority, there’s been focus on that…

“For everybody, their car is probably the second most expensive purchase they make in their life…maybe the expectations of what they think the police are going to do about their crime are different."

So while receiving a phone call after reporting a stolen bike may exceed some victim's expectations, it might not have the same impact on a victim of motor theft.

Ultimately, the experiment showed that there is a "real chance to close satisfaction gaps" while its use of non-deployable personnel made it an efficient use of resources.

However, Supt Clark stressed one "key takeaway". 

"One size doesn’t fit all...we’d need to do further research to see which crimes could a quick call like this make a real difference for."

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