CLEVELAND’s town centres pose a massive threat to women’s feelings of safety after dark.
That’s according to results from the most recent survey into the safety of women and girls carried out by the OPCC.
More than 81 per cent of female, survey respondents felt unsafe across the Cleveland Force area.
Almost 48 per cent of respondents said they felt “very unsafe” with a further 33.6 per cent feeling “fairly unsafe” in the region’s town centres at night.
- The presence of substance misusers, beggars and men staring at them were the most common reasons for women feeling uncomfortable.
- In more residential areas, gangs of youths hanging around shops was a key factor for women feeling unsafe.
- Many women feel unsafe while exercising outdoors as a result of lewd comments directed at them.
- Parks were highlighted as a particular concern as a problem area as well as cycle paths, which often have poor lighting.
- Poor lighting often made women feel unsafe. As a result, most women actively avoid alleys, subways, back paths and areas with overgrown shrubbery at night due to poor visibility in those areas.
- The most common form of harassment was wolf whistling, which had been experienced by almost three quarters of respondents (74.5%.) This was followed by harassment from a former partner (31.5%)
- However, 35.5% of respondents stated that they had experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape in Cleveland.
Under-reporting is a problem with only 12% of victims saying they had reported incidents to the police with most choosing to tell only friends and family.
The month-long survey was launched by Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner to inform a bid for cash from the £45m Safer Streets 3 programme.
Mr Turner said: “The results of this survey are truly shocking and show there is a lot to be done to increase women and girls’ feelings of safety – particularly at night and in our town centres.
“We’ve got to make sure that women can play a full role in our society and not be afraid to use public spaces freely.”
The online survey looked at how females in Cleveland feel in a range of situations including their neighbourhood, their own homes and town centres during the day and at night.
The lived experiences collected by the survey will inform a funding bid to the Home Office.
Safer Streets 3 focuses on addressing concerns about violence against women and girls (VAWG) and putting measures in place to make them feel safe in public spaces.
Safer Streets 3 was launched by the Government in March in response to the death of Sarah Everard in London.
The bid will be submitted to the Home Office by 17 July 2021. If successful, the OPCC could be working in partnership to provide a range of security measures including better lighting and CCTV in areas where women feel most vulnerable.
The Government is anticipated announce successful bids by the end of August 2021.