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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 00:59 GMT 01:59 UK
Victim calls for longer sentences
A rise in robberies was "almost wholly" responsible for an increase in the latest violent crime figures, says the Home Office.

A victim - a woman attacked at gunpoint - considers how it can be tackled.

Man being arrested
Various initiatives have been aimed at street crime

Emma, 26, was walking to her south London home, at about 10pm after a midweek night out last summer, when four boys, aged 15 to 17, wearing hoodie-style jackets passed by on two bicycles.

"I was just walking to my home, off quite a quiet road. I was only about 20 metres away," she said.

"I was thinking about work and didn't catch their eyes, but they must have seen that I was going down that road."

Real gun

Emma said that suddenly one of the teenagers was in front of her and his three friends behind her.

"The one in front pulled out a gun and said, 'Give me your stuff', or something. Iit was strange but I acted instinctively and immediately thought it was a fake gun as I'd read in the papers they were being used," she said.

"I was thinking, 'I'm not going to be bullied by these little boys', and I somehow moved the barrel and turned it round towards him.

"I can't believe I did this now - it seems like another world."

(Parents) must know when their children have suddenly got more money or could even get access to a gun
She was hit on the back of the head and fell to the ground but managed to get up and run home, still clutching her handbag.

The experience left Emma feeling "utterly wrecked".

She moved house to avoid her attackers, who have not been caught, and took taxis when not necessary.

"If they had been caught, it would have been a horrible court case and then they would have got a few months in a young offenders' institute and been released. There is not enough punishment."

Emma wants to see more police at trouble spots and said she had never seen police patrolling the area where she was attacked.

She also thought parents should be "held responsible" in juvenile offender cases.

"There are groups of children hanging around estates without proper supervision and they must know when their children have suddenly got more money or could even get access to a gun," she said.

Victim Support spokesman Andrew Buckingham said the effects of violent crime were often "devastating" and the support needs of victim could be considerable.

Most young people are not offenders and a lot more than people realise are victims of crime
Andrew Buckingham
Victim Support

"Most cases of violent crime are deeply unpleasant, nasty and unexpected and for some time those affected are unable to just get on with their daily lives," he said.

Victim Support believes the key ways to tackle violent crime are education in schools, help for victims who have not reported the crime and initiatives to tackle street crimes.

"It's easy to demonise young people, in particular I am talking about references to 'hoodies'," said Mr Buckingham.

"Most young people are not offenders and a lot more than people realise are victims of crime.

"But there needs to be more education on the impact of crime, to help educate young people, particularly those who could get in with the wrong crowd".

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