£5m awarded for new projects to keep women safe at night

Ten police and crime commissioner (PCC)-led projects to improve the safety of women and girls at night are among those to receive a share of £5 million from the Government’s Safety of Women at Night Fund.

Nov 10, 2021
By Paul Jacques

The bids include initiatives such as drink spiking detection kits, a transport safety campaign and trained staff to support safe taxi journeys.

The fund was launched in July with up to £5 million available for projects and initiatives to improve the safety of women in public spaces at night. In all there were 22 successful bids from civil society organisations, local authorities, and PCCs across England and Wales.

Bedfordshire PCC Festus Akinbusoye, prevention lead at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), said: “No one should be made to feel scared or intimidated while they enjoy our vibrant British night-life. PCCs are committed to making our communities safer, including reducing violence against women and girls. This money will enable us to support practical solutions which make people feel safer and build an evidence base for what works.”

Northumbria PCC and the APCC’s deputy prevention lead Kim McGuinness, one of the successful recipients, added: “In my local area, 60 per cent of women told me they are uncomfortable moving around and using public transport at night so I am pleased this funding will help us make a difference in the short term. But to tackle violence against women and girls nationally, we all need all of society to work together to tackle the root causes of misogyny and violence.”

As a result of the Northumbria bid, there will be more dedicated late night police patrols across the region as part of Operation Cloak. Specialist support services will be readily available to victims at the earliest possible opportunity.

Other PCC-led initiatives include:

  • The creation of safe routes into and out of town centres in Northamptonshire, with associated marketing and publicity, as well as work with licensees to accredit their premises as safe locations;
  • In Cheshire new technology will improve the current call handling technology to provide an instant visible and reassuring response to a female calling for police support from any urban area. Call handlers will be able to have direct visual access to callers/victims and view any evidence of an offence;
  • Sussex, Northamptonshire and North Wales, together with West Yorkshire Combined Authority, will pilot schemes introducing volunteer ‘taxi marshals’ who will be trained staff at taxi ranks to provide support and prevent pick-ups from unregistered taxis so that women and girls can access safe transport home. Funding will also pay for additional police patrols in key areas in the lead up to Christmas, plus awareness training on sexual harassment and violence against women and girls for licensees;
  • In Staffordshire, safe places in night-time locations, where women can seek advice, first aid and support, will be developed, together with the deployment of marshals/street pastors and vulnerability training for staff in the night-time economy;
  • Undercover police officers in town centres will seek to identify vulnerable women and girls, and potential offenders, in the weeks leading up to Christmas in North Wales; and
  • In Nottinghamshire, funding will pay for additional training on violence against women and girls for staff working in the night-time economy and on Nottingham’s tram network (NET) as well as the provision of designated safe spaces to increase safety and reduce vulnerability of women and girls. A new Charter will also be developed to include specific pledges committing premises to actively demonstrate they are tackling violence against women and girls.

In addition, police in Bristol will run a trial of new kits to test whether drinks have been spiked in nightclubs through the city council’s share of funding.

These projects will build on the efforts already underway through the £25 million third round of Safer Streets funding, which included a range of interventions including educational programmes to raise awareness and more streetlights and CCTV.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Violence against women and girls in our country’s nightlife is still an awful reality for many, and horrific crimes such as sexual assault have devastating consequences.

“Working with the police, local authorities and venues these innovative projects will identify and crack down on those who pose a risk and give women the practical support when they need it.

“We must use every possible tool at our disposal to ensure people feel safe at night when walking home, using transport, or enjoying a night out with friends.”

The Home Office, with the support of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, has already launched a new online tool called StreetSafe, piloted across police forces in England and Wales. It allows the public, particularly women and girls, to pinpoint areas on a map where they feel unsafe and say why. The information is used by police forces to better work with communities to improve local safety.

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