MATE CRIME: Vulnerable Ilkeston adults targeted by their ‘friends’

Service users, Trev Buxton and Simon Cook get a look at a video which they feature in, raising awareness of Mate Crime, also pictured are PST Quality Supervisor Liz Harriott and film producer Justin Wright from Boxman Media.
Service users, Trev Buxton and Simon Cook get a look at a video which they feature in, raising awareness of Mate Crime, also pictured are PST Quality Supervisor Liz Harriott and film producer Justin Wright from Boxman Media.

Precious possessions stolen, hounded for money and left feeling betrayed and afraid.

These are just some of the devastating effects of mate crime - a form of disability hate crime in which a vulnerable person is manipulated or abused by someone they believe to be their friend.

Set-up five years ago, Personalised Support Team Derbyshire (PST), based on Belfield Street in Ilkeston, provides care and support to vulnerable adults with learning disabilities - who are often the targets.

The care and support company, a branch of not-for-profit organisation Nottingham Community Housing Association, has recently been given a £5,000 grant from Derbyshire police following a successful application to help raise awareness of mate crime.

Elizabeth Harriott, quality supervisor at PST, said: “People do not report hate crime enough because they do not understand they are a victim of it a lot of the time.

“We see it a lot in vulnerable adults when they think that someone is their friend but actually they are not.

“It can lead to a number of problems such as depression and feeling trapped.”

Originally, the funding was going to be used towards hosting drop-in sessions and activities to help raise awareness.

But the PST, which also has an office in Chesterfield and helps people in Nottinghamshire, decided to create a hard-hitting video in which victims of mate crime describe how they were targeted.

“They are very crafty,” one victim says. “They draw you in to make you think they are your friend, and then you find out they are not. And you think ‘how stupid am I?’ but, how do you siphon the good from the bad?”

Another victim says: “I used to live in a flat but I didn’t want to come out because of people asking for my money, I didn’t want that.”

The video includes a dramatisation based on reports from service users who have been left traumatised by mate crime.

The video gives a witness account of a vulnerable man called ‘Alan Dennis’ who is taken advantage of by a woman called ‘Trish’ who Alan believes to be his friend.

Trish introduces Alan to a man called ‘Gaz’ and tells Alan that he should try to make friends with him.

Alan is unnerved at having an unknown man in his home and his suspicions of Gaz become true when he asks Alan to go to the shop to buy him some beers.

While Alan is out, Trish and Gaz steal his cash from his bedroom and then encourage Alan to try a lager and some vodka, causing him to become sick.

The actor playing Alan says: “I was really scared. I just wanted Gaz to go away. He got really angry. Trish wanted him to leave but she ended up going with him. I haven’t seen Trish since and I wish I could see my friend. I just wish she hadn’t stolen from me. I just don’t really know who I can trust anymore.”

Elizabeth said that mate crime is a ‘hot topic’ for the police at present due to the lack of awareness.

“People are more aware of hate crime such as verbal and physical abuse but more awareness needs to be made about the dangers of mate crime,” she said.

“Working with a vulnerable service user group its something we see all too often, be it with ‘friends’ or family members asking and taking money and or belongings.”

The PST Derbyshire are now hoping to hold a session in Ilkeston in the near future to help create more awareness around mate crime.

Watch the video at: youtu.be/uxsmHfjSRp

Find more information at www.personalisedsupport.co.uk

Follow @NottsCommHA on Twitter.