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Preston’s action plan for reducing risk of sex attacks in the city

Posted on - 2nd September, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News
Preston at night time Pic: scrappyNW

Women enjoying a night out in Preston could be handed personal alarms to help keep them safe.

The measure is one of the recommendations made by a group of councillors which has been exploring how to reduce the risk of sex attacks in the city.

All of the suggestions from Preston City’s Council’s crime and disorder committee – which also include better street lighting in some areas – have now been accepted by the authority’s cabinet.

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The council itself does not have the cash to purchase the devices that are being proposed for distribution, but town hall officers have said that an application could be made to the Lancashire and Police and Crime Commissioner for a grant to cover the cost.

Responding to the alarms recommendation, the authority’s corporate management team described it as “feasible”. They said in a report presented to cabinet members that the gadgets could be given out by the street safety officers who patrol the city centre, mostly between 10pm on Saturdays and 4am on Sundays.

Those officers – provided by a private contractor which works closely with the city council’s community safety manager – help people to get home safely, as well as assisting those who are injured or unwell. They also deal with low-level anti-social behaviour, gathering information and making reports.

Amongst the committee’s other proposals in its work plan study report into combatting sexual violence were pop-up toilets – to address the lack of public conveniences in the city centre at night – along with improved lighting close to nightclubs like Blitz and The Warehouse.

Read more: Preston’s former nightclubs and nightlife remembered

Following a tour of Preston’s anti-social behaviour hotspots, the committee also raised lighting concerns about the alleyways off Church Street and the currently vacant land opposite the bus station where Preston’s new Youth Zone is to be built.

Council officers said that CCTV coverage had been introduced in the latter spot – at the junction of Tithebarn Street and Lord Street – and that while temporary lighting could be installed, the cost of doing so was unknown and no budget currently existed for it.

They said that it may be possible to increase “the intensity” of existing lighting in other areas highlighted by the councillors, but stressed that it would have to be carried out by Lancashire County Council, which – as the highways authority – would also have to bear the cost.

However, the committee was advised that a new light had been fitted to Turk’s Head Yard by an adjoining business owner and that there were proposals for alley-gating in areas like Church Street, which could be funded by Preston’s share of the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Meanwhile, the University of Central Lancashire will be asked to sign up to a campaign to raise awareness of the threat of drink spiking.

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Crime and disorder committee chair Jonathan Saksena said in his foreword to the report that sexual violence “happens anywhere and everywhere” – and that members fully supported “the individuals and organisations who work in partnership to combat such crime “ in Preston.

Cllr Freddie Bailey, cabinet member for environment and community safety at Preston City Council, said that he and his colleagues were pleased to accept the committee’s recommendations on “such a sensitive and complex issue”.

“We thank the group for all the work that went into the report, which was very thorough and included contributions from a number of officers and organisations that do vital work to support those affected and also to raise awareness of the issue and about safety campaigns, such as the ‘Ask for Angela’ initiative [which enables anyone feeling vulnerable on a night out to subtly summon help in premises participating in the scheme].

“It’s about keeping people safe and ensuring we, as a council, do what we can to prevent sexual violence as it has such a damaging and harmful impact upon victims. We will ensure the recommendations are reviewed regularly via the council’s partnership working with the support organisations and Lancashire Police,” Cllr Bailey added.

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