CRIME is dropping in Moray but a charity which supports the victims has never been busier.
Growing awareness of the work of Victim Support Moray (VS Moray) means that while Police Scotland recently reported a welcome downward trend in the crime figures, there has been an increase in the number of people seeking support.
And that is putting pressure on the existing pool of local volunteers providing expert support to victims of crime.
Jill McKenzie, assistant service delivery officer with VS Moray, which is part of the Victim Support Scotland network, has launched a recruitment drive to boost the number of volunteers available.
"We work really closely with the Police and other agencies and we are finding more people are aware of what we do now," she said.
"It is great that crime figures are dropping locally, but more victims are taking up our services."
In 2012, the charity supported 1,327 people while that figure increased to 1,343 last year, and 2014 shows every sign of a similar level of demand.
The majority of cases involve thefts, housebreakings (one of the few crimes which has increased locally) and assaults, although VS Moray has helped victims of many other crimes, including sexual assaults.
Added Mrs McKenzie: "That can range from somebody phoning to get information on the criminal justice system, which can be answered over the phone, or it can be years of supporting individuals who have gone through something more traumatic."
People react to crime in different ways and VS Moray, which was established in February 1990 by VS Scotland, is there to provide ongoing emotional support in the aftermath of a crime. The charity works closely with its sister charity Witness Support in Moray, which is also part of the Victim Support Scotland organisation, ensuring a seamless service to the victims and witnesses of crime.
Last year Witness Support helped more than 1,000 people attending the sheriff or justice of the peace court in Elgin.
VS Moray also helps the victims of unreported crime and provides a completely confidential service.
In recent years, the volunteer pool at VS Moray has dropped to eight active volunteers, who provide a range of support and advice to victims.
"All we ask of our volunteers is that they are flexible and non-judgmental which is really important, and they are able to give up 2-3 hours a week.
"They can provide telephone support, home visits (which are thoroughly risk assessed) or even speak to people over a coffee; whatever works best for the volunteer and victim."
Volunteers can also provide admin support or other tasks if dealing directly with victims is not the right option for them.
All volunteers go through a comprehensive three day training course and can also receive advanced training in providing support after murder, domestic abuse and sexual abuse.
There are quarterly volunteer support meetings to provide essential back-up to the volunteers and Mrs McKenzie and Michael Pirie, who started life with the charity as a volunteer himself, are also on hand to help and support the volunteers as the two permanent members of staff at VS Moray’s headquarters in Elgin.
Volunteers have to be aged 18 but there is no upper age limit or any special skills reqired, other than the ability to be a good listener and have an interest in people.
Anybody who would like to find out more about becoming a volunteer can phone Jill McKenzie or Michael Pirie on 01343 544 607 or email them at VictimSupport.Moray@victimsupportsco.org.uk