More than £40,000 to be spent on making Stafford a safer place for women at night

More than £40,000 is set to be spent on making Stafford a safer place for women at night.

Stafford's Market Square
Stafford's Market Square

A map of safe spaces in the town centre is to be created, while a vehicle managed by Stafford Street Pastors will provide a haven for people feeling vulnerable at night.

Two taxi marshalls will be employed on Saturday nights between 9pm and 4am to help people get home safely.

The measures are being funded by the Home Office through the Safety of Women at Night scheme. Stafford Borough Community Wellbeing Partnership (CWP) is overseeing work locally to prevent violence against women and girls.

A report to Stafford Borough Council’s cabinet said: “Women and girls are disproportionately affected by certain crime types; for example they are four times more likely than men to experience a sexual assault. Women and girls have also been found to suffer high levels of sexual and verbal harassment.

“The tragic killing of Sarah Everard brought to the forefront concerns about woman and girls’ safety in public places. Following the meeting of the Prime Minister’s Crime and Justice Taskforce (CJTF) on 15 March 2021, the Government announced immediate steps to protect women and girls in public spaces, including the rollout of initiatives to improve the safety of women in public spaces at night, including in the night-time economy.

The CWP has been allocated £20,000 for safe routes. £17,000 for safe places and £5,000 for taxi marshals. As part of safe routes the CWP will develop a map of the town centre with Stafford Borough Council’s graphic designer highlighting premises that operate during the evening and places of safety including the taxi rank.

“A vehicle is being purchased for the safe space element of the bid and this will be managed by the Stafford Street Pastors. It will be located within the town centre of an evening and used as a place of safety.

“Whilst some districts have looked at renting an empty shop unit, this did not seem a sustainable option for Stafford and the cost involved in insurances and rent alone was too great. The street pastors will be able to offer, warm drinks, advice and guidance and will be able to request assistance from other agencies if required to attend the vehicle.

“Staffordshire Womens Aid and Resolv will inform the messaging of a safety plan for getting home. This will be shared via social media, within the college and sixth forms and within the town centre.

“Hollie Guard (a personal safety app) will be more widely promoted by the CWP, personal alarms, torches and drink spiking prevention tools will be distributed. A webinar will be produced to educate workers within the night time economy how to identify vulnerable persons and how to assist them safely on the route home.”

Stafford Borough Council’s deputy leader Jeremy Pert told fellow cabinet members at their latest meeting of the work taking place locally to boost safety at night. He also spoke of raising awareness of behaviour that may make other members of the public feel unsafe, such as inappropriate comments.

He said: “I was in London and a poster caught my eye – I thought it was a really brave and challenging poster and made me consider some of the things we all might inadvertently do that make other people feel uncomfortable, uneasy and unsafe. That might be something like walking at the same speed as someone else but on their shoulder or telling a risky joke that you’ve heard somewhere else and probably wasn’t an appropriate thing to say or do.

“The tragic killing of Sarah Everard last year has brought to the forefront concerns about the safety of women and girls in public places. It would be very easy to say that something like the murder of Sarah was an isolated incident, but you could then talk about Sabina Nessa or Bobbi-Anne McLeod (who were also murdered in 2021).

“I think it is really appropriate that we consider how everyone in our communities feels. And so putting in safe spaces for people – and for women in particular – is a really positive step.

“Some of the initiatives we are jointly putting in with the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner include taxi marshals, safe routes and safe spaces for women to follow and be able to go to. I think it ensures everyone in our community feels safe and that’s really important.

“It also allows us to start to have a different discussion about what is and isn’t appropriate within our communities. Having that brave conversation is important.”

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