Policeman’s compassion improves safety for Big Issue seller

John’s a Scope communication access assessor who also sells the Big Issue magazine around Melbourne. He’s an outgoing and independent guy who likes to get out and about.

This year, Scope began working with Victoria Police to strengthen their support to victims of crime with communication difficulties. When given the opportunity to work with Victoria Police on a communication access project, John grabbed it.

Communication access assessors like John have been working closely with an Eastern region police station toward Communication Access accreditation. This means that people with communication difficulties will be able to speak to police, to report crime, like everyone else.

Part of John’s role is to conduct role plays with different members at the police station to find out how well they can communicate with people with communication difficulties. John acted out a scenario where he was a person who had his wallet stolen. This was a role play he did with over 15 different constables, senior constables, and sergeants at the police station.

What most of them didn’t realise was that this had happened to John many times in real life. Thieves have targeted John, his wallet snatched from a container on his wheelchair tray a number of times.

Going beyond call of duty

Senior Constable Anthony Downing got to know John during the communication access project.  When Senior Constable Downing learned of John’s experiences, he knew it would only be a matter of time before thieves target John again.

To improve John’s safety, Senior Constable Downing built a concealed box on his wheelchair for John to store his wallet securely.

Resilient by nature, thieves never deterred John from continuing as a Big Issue vendor but John says he feels more confident now.

“The wallet holder that Senior Constable Anthony Downing made has made me feel safer while out in the community. My hard earnings are now protected, and I feel confident to go out, and live my life,” he says.

“I would like to thank Anthony for helping make sure that I can live my life the way I want.”

Senior Constable Downing received Scope’s See the person Award at Annual Awards for his demonstration of Scope values.

“I wanted to make him a secure container that is accessible to John that aims to help prevent further theft,” Senior Constable Downing said.

“Hearing about the difference it has made to his confidence has made it all worth it and I hope others are now inspired to make change for the better.”