Mayor welcomes new support for international tourists in London

11 August 2015

 New International Victim Support Service for foreign nationals affected by crime

· West End crime down 34 per cent since the launch of London’s first dedicated ‘Impact Zone’ 

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today confirmed London’s position as one of the safest big cities to visit in the world. He welcomed news that a service funded through the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), is to be located in Leicester Square to provide assistance to the very small number of international tourists who become victims of crime in the capital.

Crime in London continues to drop at a greater rate than in England and Wales as a whole, down 18 per cent since the Mayor took office, and studies show London is one of the safest holiday or business destination in the world*. In the West End alone, theft has fallen by 49.2 per cent over the last year, and robbery has decreased by 46.8 per cent.

The International Visitors Victim Service is the first of its kind in the UK, and with almost £100,000 of support from the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime, is now operating across 5 central London boroughs. From today, the specialised team will be available through a mobile police kiosk in the West End ‘Impact Zone’, an area across Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus in which the Metropolitan Police already have a huge presence, to help foreign visitors in the unlikely event they fall victim to thieves or any other crime. They offer free emotional and practical support including help with loss of travel documents, accommodation, medical treatment, accessing funds and translator services. 

The support service staff join a team of 100 dedicated officers who patrol the West End area day and night in London’s first ‘Impact Zone’, which offers easily accessible help and support for visitors, while aiding crime prevention. Now celebrating its first anniversary, it has already proved a great success, with overall crime in the area reduced by 34 per cent over the last year. 

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “London is the greatest, and one of the safest, big cities on earth and we want to ensure it remains the very best visitor destination in the world. Our police officers do a fantastic job cracking down on crime and keeping our busiest tourist hubs trouble free. And this new service will offer an invaluable extra safety net for all of our international visitors, so they can get on and enjoy everything London has to offer.”

Working in close conjunction with independent charity Victim Support, the Metropolitan Police, and embassies the new service is part of the Mayor’s wider commitment to provide swift support to all victims of crime in the capital. Since the scheme’s introduction it has already helped foreign visitors from several countries around the world. In the majority of cases victims of theft were given practical support such as the provision of food vouchers and help contacting family members, as well as passport and travel document assistance. In most cases the advocates also worked in conjunction with support services in the visitors’ home country, to offer assistance on their return. 

Margaret Bourne, Victim Services Manager for independent charity Victim Support in London, said: “Falling victim to crime while overseas can be an extremely distressing experience. At home, people can turn to family, friends, police and support services for help, but knowing where and how to get help abroad can be traumatic. The new International Visitors Victim Service, operated by specially trained Victim Support staff and volunteers, is a dedicated service which enables tourists to access the help and support they may desperately need following crime. We will offer any visiting victims emotional support and practical help, or refer them to other avenues of support if they need more specialist help in the UK or in their home country.”

West End Police Inspector, Matt Butterworth said: "I am extremely proud to launch the partnership between the Westminster Police Impact Zone and the International Visitors Victim Service from the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.  Although crime continues to fall and Westminster is an extremely safe place to visit, we are not complacent. The partnership between us will enable those visitors to the West End who have been unfortunate to become a victim of crime to be supported and advised across a range of services according to their needs making this experience more positive for them."

An Italian national, who wishes to remain anonymous, used the service after having her handbag stolen. She told the service: “Thank you for your support. Fortunately London is so beautiful that I had a great time there. I'm always very glad when I come back to the UK. I don't really know how to thank you enough.’’

Gordon Innes, CEO London & Partners, the Mayor of London's official promotional company, said: "London is one of the safest big cities in the world and welcomes many millions of visitors every year who come to the capital to experience everything the city has to offer.  This newly-launched dedicated service will be a welcome addition to the city, offering free support to international tourists in the unlikely event that they should run into difficulties.’’

Todd Stewart, Deputy Mission Security Officer at the High Commission of Canada, said:  “The High Commission of Canada is pleased to support the work of the International Visitors Victim Service. The service is an excellent initiative that provides both concrete logistical assistance as well as emotional support to foreign victims of crime. We are happy to work together to collectively assist our citizens in the United Kingdom.”  

If you are a victim of crime whilst visiting London, contact the International Visitor Advocates by telephoning 0207 259 2424 or visit the West End Central Police Station, 27 Savile Row, London W1S 2EX. 

Following the successful introduction of the scheme across Westminster, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark and Camden, there are now plans to extend it to more boroughs across the capital. 

 

Notes to editors

 

*The Cities of Opportunity Index 2014, by Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), show London is a safer holiday or business destination than Paris, New York and Beijing.

London, which was recently voted the world’s most popular travel destination in MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index, will have over 18 million visitors this year. 

 

· The new International Visitors Victim Service advocates operate from the mobile police kiosk and West End Central Police Station.

· The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime is providing £95,796 to fund the International Visitors Victim Service (IVVS) for 12 months.

· IVVS offers immediate practical support by liaising and advocating on behalf of victims with the following agencies:

- language line

- hotels

- ticketing agencies

- airlines

- travel agents

- embassies

- rental car companies

- money transfer agencies

- banks

· MOPAC has delivered the first phase of the IVVS in five London boroughs - Westminster, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea , Southwark and Camden

· There have been 456 fewer occurrences of theft and 103 fewer occurrences of robbery since the Impact Zone launched a year ago. 

· The IVVS service forms part of a wider victims offer delivered by Victim Support and funded by MOPAC.  

· Every Summer, Team London Ambassadors welcome tourists to the capital as part the Visitor Welcome programme. Up to 800 specially trained volunteers, who speak 57 languages between them, offer assistance to visitors and Londoners at 11 famous landmarks, visitor hot spots and travel hubs. They provide information about the local area, as well as directing people to transport officials, the police and other services, if they require any special assistance. 

· Advice on staying safe in the capital is available on the London & Partners website, www.visitlondon.com 

· The responsibility for commissioning victim services in London transferred from the Ministry of Justice to Police and Crime Commissioners (MOPAC in London) in October 2014. 

· MOPAC’s current  victims projects include:

- A pan-London Domestic Violence Service 

- A Harmful Practices Pilot programme 

- Interventions with young victims in London’s four Major Trauma Centres