New Nightsafe Network launched to improve safety of women at night

Published: Thursday, 28th April 2022

A partnership of businesses, universities, the police, and Oxford City Council has launched a new collaborative approach to supporting the safety of women and girls at night.

The partnership is part of the next steps of the Oxford Safer Streets 3 project.

The Nightsafe Oxford Network is one of a range of new measures that includes a Safe Places scheme for those in need of help, new CCTV and lighting improvements and a web-based interactive map to help authorities identify areas of concern where women feel unsafe.

Nightsafe Oxford Network

A new network of organisations has been established in order to help prevent violence against women and girls in Oxford at night.

The network brings together partners and organisations in the night-time economy, including the police, CCTV operators, Street Pastors, night bus drivers, taxi drivers, fast food outlets and licensed premises. Members of the network will be trained in spotting and assisting people in need, communicate with each other through a radio system, have direct contact with the police CCTV control room and receive briefings from the police on what to expect during the weekend.

The Nightsafe Oxford Network have developed a website that gives advice and information on how they work together to improve safety in the evening economy.  This includes campaign materials, assessment of smart phone apps to help people stay connected and alert contacts, and an overview of the interventions in place to keep people safe.

Safe Places

Some Network members with premises will also be part of the Safe Places scheme, providing a place where people can get support in a safe environment.

A range of businesses including city centre pubs, clubs and hotels have signed up to join the scheme.  New phone charging points are being installed in Oxford and Didcot train stations and smaller power packs available through the Street Pastors.

Safe Places organisations will be identified through the Safe Places logo on their windows, or through the Safe Places App which will allow individuals to find their nearest Safe Place from their current location.

Oxford Women’s Safety website

The Oxford Safer Streets project has also created a new website, inviting everyone who lives, works, studies, or socialises in Oxford to share locations where they feel unsafe, and to explain why. 

The website will allow authorities in the Safer Streets project to hear what people have to say about their personal safety and take action to make Oxford safe for everyone.

This approach builds on existing consultations that identified poor lighting as a significant cause of feeling unsafe. In response, the Oxford Safer Streets Project has funded £43,000 of lighting upgrades in the city centre, Witney, Didcot and Abingdon.

The Oxford Women’s Safety website is not monitored in real-time, and should not be used to report crime, but instead aims to alert authorities to areas of concern.

Liz Jones, Anti-Social Behaviour Investigation Team Manager, Oxford City Council, said: “Women and girls have the right to feel safe wherever they are. The Nightsafe Oxford Network is an essential collaboration of organisations who operate in the evenings and are able to help people who need it. We are working together so everyone is able to travel to their homes safely, free from harassment and harm."

Jackie Wilderspin, Chair of Oxford Street Pastors, said: “Oxford Street Pastors are very happy to be part of the new Nightsafe Network. We are volunteers who go out at weekends to help keep party-goers safe and provide them with support, when needed.  Bringing everyone together through this network allows us to better communicate with venues, the police and CCTV operators. As part of the additional training the network has provided, we have just undertaken Bystander Training which will equip our volunteers to have more confidence to intervene if we think anyone is at risk.”

Chief Inspector Jen Hogben, Thames Valley Police, said: “The Nightsafe Oxford Network brings together all those who work in the night-time economy into a unified group with a common purpose; to improve the safety of all so everyone can enjoy their night out. Not only will these measures help to protect women and girls, but they will have benefits for all those who are vulnerable to violence and other predatory behaviour.  As the country emerges from the pandemic, the Network signifies a new beginning in the way partners will work together to manage the night-time economy”

ATIK Oxford’s general manager, Stephen Fleury, said: “The safety of our guests is our number one priority, so we are delighted to be supporting all aspects of Oxford’s Nightsafe Network.  By working together we can make sure that Oxford continues to be a fun and culturally diverse and safe place to go out at night.”

Oxford Brookes Students’ Union, said: “This is a welcome step forward for all of our students. We want them to feel safe as they enjoy Oxford at night - something everyone, everywhere deserves. We particularly welcome the Safe Places Scheme that the Nightsafe Network will provide and that students can find those places easily with the new app.”

Background: Oxford Safer Streets project

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, Oxford Street Pastors 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 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 project is funded by £426,000 of Government funding that Oxford received 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.

Initiatives from the Safer Street fund must be used to improve safety in public spaces that prevents violence against women and girls. 

Last month saw the installation of 24 new CCTV cameras and the upgrade of the CCTV suite at St Aldates Police Station. The network will build upon this enhanced resource, with the ability to access high quality CCTV footage. Members of the network have also been provided training and resources on how to respond to incidents and offer support and reassurance to women and girls.