How will Suffolk's PCC candidates improve safety for women?
- Credit: Archant
Candidates hoping to become Suffolk's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) have been asked what should be done to make women feel safer in the county.
This newspaper asked the candidates to explain what needed to be done, and what measures they proposed to take, to uphold every woman and girl's right to feel safe.
According to our recent survey, more than half of women in Suffolk feel unsafe when walking or travelling alone.
The issue of women's safety was brought into sharp focus following the death of Sarah Everard, whose body was found in Kent seven days after she was last seen walking home in Clapham.
In the wake of Ms Everard's death, the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star launched a survey inviting women to discuss how secure they feel in Suffolk.
Of 3,500 responses, 53% came from women who often or usually felt unsafe when walking or travelling alone.
Conservative incumbent, Tim Passmore, elected in November 2012 and re-elected in May 2016, said the recruitment of extra officers this year would enable the constabulary to improve visibility and bolster foot patrols.
He said a multi-agency approach was needed to explore the expansion of CCTV coverage and improved street lighting.
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"I think we need to do more to educate our young people, in particular, as they enter the work world, on how to behave, and men like myself and others need to call out their behaviour, and hold offenders to account," he added.
"I'd also like to see a dedicated female officer appointed to this constabulary, who will oversee tactics to improve safety and also learn best practice and incorporate this into policing in Suffolk."
Liberal Democrat candidate James Sandbach said recent events had put into the public consciousness that women often feel unsafe on our streets, and that the justice system is not on their side.
"If I'm elected PCC for Suffolk, I'll be wanting to put much more focus on community policing, recruiting more community support officers, so there is a more visible police presence in towns, villages and other communities," he added.
"Secondly, I want to work with the county council to improve street lighting to ensure housing estates, towns and town centres are well lit at night.
"And thirdly, I think there should be the public information campaign to encourage members of the public to report acts of violence and harassment towards women through the 999 system. This should not be a no go area."
Labour candidate Elizabeth Hughes said the question of women's safety is something we should all be speaking about and urged we must "educate, talk, discuss and change".
"This is endemic in our society and it is a question we should all be talking about," she said.
"Are women safe and how safe are our daughters, wives, mums, grannies, all of us?
"I have not had great experiences and I'm sure if you talk to anybody my age they will say the same. Cat-calling, name calling, unpleasantness, this is not unusual for a woman to experience.
"As you get older it changes, but it doesn't go away.
"As an older woman now I am more likely to get abuse for being assertive than I was when I was younger, when it was more sexual.
"I don't think there is anything we can do concrete bar educate, talk, discuss and change."