Shop workers given body cameras to record race hate crimes

Vulnerable shop workers in Merseyside are to be given discreet body-worn video (BWV) devices to help combat racism. Forty-eight cameras are being funded by Merseyside’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) Jane Kennedy to tackle hate crime.

Jul 9, 2014
By Paul Jacques

Vulnerable shop workers in Merseyside are to be given discreet body-worn video (BWV) devices to help combat racism. Forty-eight cameras are being funded by Merseyside’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) Jane Kennedy to tackle hate crime.

They will be provided to workers in takeaways and convenience stores who have been targeted in the past.

The semi-covert video cameras, which look like large name-badges, will provide support and reassurance to victims of racial abuse, while also assisting Merseyside Police by capturing vital evidence that can be used to ensure offenders are successfully investigated and prosecuted, ultimately reducing the number of hate crimes in the region.

The cameras are embedded in a badge worn around the neck on a lanyard, which shop workers can activate if they feel threatened in the course of carrying out their jobs. They simply slide aside the main part of the badge to reveal a camera emblem and a warning that it is recording.

As well as the cameras, the funding will also pay for charging stations and data storage units.

Ms Kennedy said that a lot of the problems had been at corner shops owned by Asian families in white neighbourhoods that were being targeted by youths.

The force has been running a pilot programme for the past year initiated by one of its Sigma hate crime investigation units.

Video recordings provide independent evidence that will improve the quality of prosecution cases and reduce the reliance on victim evidence, particularly those who may be vulnerable or reluctant to attend court.

Merseyside’s PCC is also purchasing around 100 personal safety devices for use by high-risk victims of domestic abuse, harassment and stalking.

The devices, which have GPS (global positioning system) tracking, consist of a small personal attack alarm which is monitored to ensure victims can be located and also provides users with the option of leaving ‘safety messages’ detailing where they are going and when they should return in order to provide additional protection.

The two schemes will cost £65,000 and are being funded through grants from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

A total of £12.5 million was made available to PCCs by the MoJ to pay for additional services to help priority victims, such as those affected by serious crime, vulnerable people or those who are persistently targeted.

In total, Merseyside was awarded £105,000 to fund victim support services, which included a joint submission for £25,000 with the Cheshire PCC John Dwyer.

Ms Kennedy said: “The submission of these bids demonstrates that the force and I are constantly looking at new and innovative ways to give victims on Merseyside the support, reassurance and help they deserve and I am delighted that this extra funding will make a difference towards their quality of life.”

Other projects put forward by PCCs included: £12,000 for an interactive pain and anxiety distraction system to support young sexual violence victims in a newly-established sexual assault reference centre (SARC) in Suffolk; further rollout of BWV cameras to frontline officers across a number of force areas; and expansion of the ‘live-link’ video facilities in several locations, including Hertfordshire, allowing victims to give evidence via video link away from a court.

A specialised live-link suite at Hertfordshire Constabulary’s headquarters is already tailored for access by physically disabled and wheelchair-bound victims, including specialised requirements for young victims and partially or profoundly deaf victims. The money awarded will be invested in additional resources to support equipment for the partially deaf with hearing loops and headphones.

A new live-link suite, designed to be a positive surrounding to assist the victim to cope with the justice system process, is also planned for Hertfordshire’s SARC. This suite can then be offered to victims of domestic abuse for giving evidence at a site which is not at a court or a police site, so can be less intimidating

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