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The champion of YOUR complaints; LOCAL HEROES.

Byline: Justine Halifax

WALSALL is a diverse and multi-cultural borough home to around 254,000 people, but it's just one of a number of hotspots in the West Midlands that's being plagued by anti-social behaviour.

Now, in a bid to stop people suffering in silence for fear of reprisals, it has just become one of 80 areas in the UK to be awarded Home Office funding to recruit a victims champion.

Karen Bateman has been charged with the job of encouraging more people to pursue complaints so robust action can be taken to curb the anti-social antics of gangs making some residents' lives a misery. She will support the work of several groups already working to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the borough, including Safer Walsall Partnership, West Midlands Police, Walsall Council and Walsall Housing Group.

Karen, who has already started her new role, said: "Every year in Walsall several people log complaints of anti-social behaviour but often that's as far as they are prepared to take it because they are worried about the possible repercussions.

"I am determined that people who are victims of anti-social behaviour should not suffer in silence and are given all the help and support they need to pursue their case to a satisfactory conclusion."

Councillor Zahid Ali, Walsall Council cabinet member for communities and partnerships, said: "I do not want to see anyone in Walsall subjected to anti-social behaviour but for those who are victims I want to make sure they have access to all the support they need.

"The victims champion is an important part of that support network and I am delighted that Karen is now part of the team who are working together to address antisocial behaviour in Walsall." West Midlands Police said the appointment would be a real boost.

Chief Inspector Andy Bullman, of Walsall Police, said: "There is no doubt the appointment of a victims champion will enhance the service provided to those people across the borough who are adversely affected by anti-social behaviour.

"I am very much looking forward to working in partnership with the victims champion to continue the good work that has already begun."

Karen will support people who log complaints of anti-social behaviour and who may be concerned about taking their case further for fear of reprisals. It is also hoped her presence will encourage more people who are being subjected to antisocial behaviour in their neighbourhood to come forward and log an initial complaint.

Her job will also involve offering advice on gathering evidence of anti-social behaviour and, where appropriate, helping people to pursue their case through the courts to ensure robust action is taken.

Residents in Brownhills, Aldridge, Bloxwich, Willenhall, Darlaston and Walsall can be referred to the victims champion through a number of channels, including the council's anti-social behaviour team, police and landlords.

Her appointment will bolster ongoing work with schools and parents to deliver Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and the Positive Parenting Programme and work to promote neighbourhood justice and community payback.

CAPTION(S):

On the case: Narinder Singh Chumber, neighbourhood crime and justice coordinator, and Karen Bateman, victims champion. Trouble: Karen will support the work of groups already tacking anti-social behaviour.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 14, 2010
Words:531
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