24 new CCTV cameras are among the first measures to be introduced by Oxford City council as part of a multi-agency programme to make the streets safer for women and girls in Oxford.
The new cameras, which are monitored in real time with operators able to communicate with police officers, door staff and store security, cover the main areas of Oxford City Centre and aim to deter perpetrators. They include three new camera sites in New Road and Frideswide Square, which previously had no CCTV coverage.
Along with the new cameras, the Council has also funded the upgrade of the CCTV suite in St Aldates Police Station to ensure CCTV technology is kept up to date. The CCTV suite is operated and managed in partnership with Thames Valley Police.
The new CCTV cameras and suite upgrade aims to help improve feelings of safety and visibility, increase investigative opportunities for CCTV and deter those considering coming to the city to commit crime.
It is the first of many physical measures to improve safety and support women and girls at night, and to deter perpetrators from committing crimes.
The new cameras are paid for from £426,000 that Oxford received from the Government to introduce measures to help prevent violence against women and girls travelling in and out of Oxford at night – also known as the Safer Streets fund.
The Oxford Safer Streets project brings together the Police & Crime Commissioner, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Thames Valley Police, Oxford University Security Services, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Bus Company, as well as Students’ Unions in a unique partnership that aims to make a difference for women and girls in the city.
The “end-to-end” approach recognises the concerns and risks women face travelling to and from their homes at night, especially when travelling alone.
The project will create a Nightsafe Network and Safe Haven scheme - which brings together partners and organisations in the night-time economy, including the police, CCTV operators, Street Pastors, night bus drivers, fast food outlets and licensed premises. The network will be given up to date information on CCTV footage, as well as training and resources on how to respond to incidents and will provide reassurance for women and girls.
Other measures to be introduced as part of the project include safe zones to wait in for friends or taxis, and routes/patrols, outdoor phone charging stations, lighting upgrades, and the removal of some shrubbery and street furniture that reduces visibility.
The Council and Thames Valley Police has been working with partners across the city and beyond, including ‘home’ destinations such as Abingdon, Witney and Didcot. The partnership has also been working directly with women and girls to gather information on their experiences and concerns, in order to ensure that the funding is able to tackle key areas of concern.
The funding must be used to install physical measures and initiatives to prevent violence against women and girls, such as CCTV and community networks.
Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthier Oxford, Oxford City Council said “The City Council believes that that women and girls in our city have the right to feel safe – both during the day and in the night time economy. The Safer Streets funding is a commitment to taking women’s concerns seriously and is a much-needed investment in their wellbeing. 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. We want everyone to be able to travel to their homes safely, free from harassment and harm."
Local policing area commander for Oxford, Superintendent Bruce Riddell, said: “I firmly believe that these new CCTV cameras, obtained thanks to the Safer Streets funding, will provide even more reassurance to members of the public that Oxford is a safe area where, by working with our partners, any type of criminal activity is not tolerated.
“They should also serve as a warning to any potential offenders. These new cameras will only improve the security measures already in place in Oxford and will mean that the chances of criminal activity being recorded and used in evidence will increase.
“Our message to criminals is clear. We have a network of measures in place to stop your activity and if you commit crimes in our city, we will use our CCTV network to help bring you to justice.”