Oxford has been granted up to £426,000 to introduce measures which aim to prevent violence against women and girls travelling in and out of Oxford at night.
The funding aims to introduce new measures, including nightclub ‘Safe Zones’, Safe Walk routes, outdoor phone charging stations, upgrades to CCTV and more – in order to ensure safer journeys for women travelling from their home, into the city and back again.
The successful bid comes from the Government’s Safer Streets scheme, which has provided £23.5m in total for police and local authorities to make streets safer for women and girls. The third round of funding for Safer Streets was announced earlier this week and more information can be found on Gov.uk.
In 2018-2019, 73 serious sexual offences were committed by strangers in Oxford, with this figure rising to 88 offences in 2019-2020. 75% of these being cases were crimes committed against women. Most commonly, female victims were targeted after leaving nightclubs and while travelling home alone.
Safer Streets measures
The new “end-to-end” approach recognises the concerns and risks women face travelling to and from their homes at night, especially when travelling alone.
The funding bid has identified two key “destination” areas in Oxford city centre, and seven home “originator” locations in Oxford and Oxfordshire – including Headington Hill, Abingdon Town Centre, Witney and parts of South Oxfordshire – and will introduce a range of measures in order to improve the safety and security of women as they travel home.
The measures included as part of the funding includes:
Nightclub Safe Zones
Exploring the creation of two ‘Safe Zones’ in the city - one located around Park End Street and Hythe Bridge Street - a popular nightclub area - and another around Cornmarket.
The Safe Zone will act as a space between the nightclub and a home address where users can organise and wait for a safe journey. The zones will include mobile phone charging points to allow users to charge their devices in order to organise a journey home, as well as enhanced CCTV and improved lighting.
Exploring the creation of Safe Walks between key points in the city during the evening and early morning – based on the success of pre-existing model in New York City.
The walks will see dedicated high visibility team who will help guide those walking alone from a central location to a terminus point. The network will provide hi-vis guardianship and will connect with the wider guardianship network, working with the universities and student groups on student safety initiatives.
Safe Haven schemes
The enhancement of Safe Haven schemes which provide a safe location and assistance in accessing support for people in need during the evening and early morning. The funding will provide training and promotion of these existing Safe Places Schemes for lodge porters, night bus drivers, fast food and licensed premises in order to help prevent violence against women and girls, as well as further training on how to respond to incidents.
CCTV and lighting upgrades
The funding will also see improvements to the physical environment to ensure safety when travelling home. This includes the installation of 20 new CCTV cameras, 35 lighting upgrades, and the removal of some shrubbery and street furniture.
These steps aim to help improve feelings of safety, sight lines, increase recognition opportunities for CCTV and deter perpetrators.
When will the measures be introduced?
The project will be developed over the coming months, with most measures expected to be installed early in 2022.
The funding brings together the Police Crime Commissioner, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford Police Area, Oxford University Security Services, and Oxford Brookes University.
“The safer streets funding is much needed investment and is a commitment that local authorities in Oxford and Oxfordshire are taking women’s concerns seriously. Not only will these measures protect women and girls, but they will have benefits for all those who are vulnerable to violence and other predatory behaviour.
“By enhancing current schemes, and introducing new measures to further protect our women and girls, we want everyone to be able to travel to their homes safely, free from harassment and harm."
Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthier Oxford
"We are pleased to be working with local partners as part of the Government-led ‘Safer Streets’ scheme. We work hard to make all of our students and indeed our staff aware of the steps they can take to keep themselves safe. Throughout the year this includes visits to student accommodation to talk about security, and work by our Student Community Wardens and Security Team who give out safety advice."
Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student and Staff Experience, Oxford Brookes University