Stand up against crime
Monday 12th May 2003, 12:00AM BST.
THE public could do more to help the police convict criminals. And police chief Mike Wyeth said the force needed all islanders to be prepared to give evidence in prosecutions. Mr Wyeth said the refusal of some witnesses to give evidence led to the collapse of the prosecution of a number of serious crimes last year. And the chief officer believed there was a threat to the quality of life islanders enjoyed if people were unwilling to help ensure that lawbreakers were brought to book. Some people were reluctant to give evidence, he said. He also highlighted the increasing use of the anonymous Crimestoppers phone line in the reporting of crime. ‘We have to work on how we can encourage citizens to go through the process of giving evidence that can help secure convictions. Fear of intimidation or reprisal is usually more of a perception than a reality,’ he said. Crimestoppers chairman Ken Gregson backed the chief officer’s call for the public to be prepared to act as witnesses to support the criminal justice system. ‘I don’t believe that fear of retribution should be a factor in deciding not to help the police in this community. ‘It is understandable in small communities that the person reporting the crime may feel embarrassed in case they bump into the perpetrator or know them, but that should not deter them from fully helping the police,’ he said. However, Mr Gregson said that the ‘completely anonymous’ reporting of crime through the Crimestoppers line had its place. ‘There are many instances where individuals wish to assist the police and report crime but they really cannot get involved. Prior to Crimestoppers, there was no means to allow the public to remain anonymous,’ he said. Although Mr Wyeth could understand that people might not want to get involved for a variety of reasons, he said there was a danger that the island’s reputation for being a ‘low-crime, low-disorder’ jurisdiction could be put at risk. ‘Criminals and lawbreakers have to know they are in the minority and that we, the majority, will not stand for their behaviour. They must be aware that people will act against them,’ he said. The police chief said that he would also back initiatives to establish neighbourhood watch schemes that could play a useful role in reducing crime. ‘We do have taxi and pub watch schemes but we do not have any for particular areas of the island,’ he said. He believed it was important that the public should realise that their risk of exposure to crime was minimal and said they should not have their views coloured by what they saw on TV and read in the Guernsey Press. ‘People do read and see things on programmes like Crimewatch UK and believe it must be like that in Guernsey when the reality is very different,’ he said.
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