South East Wales

'Mate crime' increasing, Gwent Victim Support says

Woman handing over money Image copyright Thinkstock

Cases of "mate crime" - where vulnerable people are befriended then bullied or conned - are increasing, according to victim support workers.

Gwent Police said it has had a 40% rise in referrals of crime victims to its Connect Gwent Victims Hub this year.

David, 52, from Cwmbran, Torfaen, said he had "lost trust in everything" after so-called friends stole from him.

He blamed his mental health issues before realising items missing from his home had actually been stolen.

He said: "These people are really good at what they do. They make out they are buddies only to be in there with a motive."

One "friend" even asked David for a plastic bag to carry off items including family memorabilia and DVDs.

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Media captionDavid, 52, recounts one incident of theft

"I thought it was my mental state getting worse," he said. "I thought they were friends. Obviously they were not friends."

Gwent Police said it had identified a growing number of "mate crime" victims through its Connect Gwent Victims Hub where officers work alongside mental health nurses.

The force said the crime was complex as victims did not always realise they were being targeted, or were too embarrassed or scared to report crimes.

Chief constable Jeff Farrar said the role of the police was not just about pursuing prosecutions and the hub was helping officers to understand the needs of victims.

He said: "We are here to protect people. We are here to reassure our communities."

'Under-reported crime'

Disability charities said signs of "mate crime" may include unexplained injuries and missed payments.

Chloe Perrett from Gwent Victim Support said it was an increasing and under-reported crime.

"I have seen cases where the person could be their next door neighbour," she said, citing an example where one vulnerable person was charged £100 by their neighbour to do their weekly shopping.

Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert, said: "Crimes such as mate crime can often make the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community a misery and that's why it's vitally important that these people in their greatest hour of need have access to specialist provision such as is provided by Connect Gwent."

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