Commission: 'Shameful for so many women and girls to be afraid'

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A woman showing signs of depression.

A survey undertaken by the commission found 96 per cent of respondents had experienced street harassment in Ilford - Credit: PA

An independent commission described the number of women and girls who feel scared to walk in Redbridge as "shameful".

The Redbridge Community Crime Commission published a report in which it made a number of recommendations to help tackle five areas of crime; violence against women and girls, burglary, anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse and drugs and street violence.

The report said that more than 96 per cent of 1,700 respondents to a survey said they had experienced street harassment in Ilford.

It added: "It is shameful for so many women and girls to be afraid to walk around our borough. 

"Not only were the women who responded reporting regular verbal harassment, some were describing physical and sexual assault, of being groped on the street or on buses, some even mentioning rape."

The commission, chaired by Dr Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo's, is made up of residents alongside experts in the fields of policing, education and youth work.

It recommended that it be made easier for women to report safety issues and to train police, enforcement officers and school staff to ensure they feel confident that their reports will be taken seriously.

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Commissioners also urged the use of Public Space Protection Order powers "to hold men to account" if they are harassing women or causing them distress.

They also called for businesses to be required to sign up to women's safety initiatives.

Det Ch Supt Paul Trevers, who leads the East Area command unit which includes Redbridge, said he "totally understands" community concern over women's safety.

He cited initiatives the Met has introduced, such as Walk and Talk events where women can discuss their concerns with female officers on patrol.

Det Ch Supt Trevers said officers also use data from the StreetSafe app, where people can anonymously tell police about places they have felt unsafe, to make areas safer.

He added: "Here at East Area we have worked tirelessly to engage with all communities to reassure them and maximise safety.

“Our neighbourhood ward teams continue to attend women’s groups to deliver safety talks, promoting the app and events, encouraging everyone to tell us about the areas in their borough where they feel unsafe.

“We provide partners with a tasking assessment of all violence against women which drives and coordinates our activity.

“And we have uplifted our investigative teams to prioritise all investigations of domestic abuse, sexual assault and violence. We see continued increases in our detection rates for all those offences."

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On burglary, the commissioners said Redbridge residents "think the issue is not treated seriously enough by police".

They wrote: "We want to see much more effort being put into preventing burglary in Redbridge.

Det Ch Supt Paul Trevers

East Area's interim commander Det Ch Supt Paul Trevers - Credit: Michael Cox

"We need better communication between all the services involved and a faster and more positive response when people report crime."

Burglaries have fallen in the borough during the last two years, according to the Met, which reported a fall of almost a third between March 2020 and March 2022.

Det Ch Supt Trevers said the force had committed to increasing burglary prevention work in the borough and there has been a rise in the number of investigators focusing on burglaries.

He also promised that every victim of residential burglary will get a visit from a police officer or PCSO.

"I completely recognise that burglary is a very serious crime and one that has a significant impact on victims," he said.

"I would also like to reassure residents that it is a crime that we take extremely seriously."

Commissioners also described the authorities' response to anti-social behaviour as "inadequate and uncoordinated". 

They wrote: "We must also have a significantly improved, more sensitive and faster response to residents who complain about ASB."

Det Ch Supt Trevers said: “In relation to ASB, again our response is co-ordinated across our partnership agencies. Like burglary, calls regarding ASB have fallen over the last two years by 36 per cent."

In coming to their findings, commissioners heard 30 hours of testimony from authorities, experts and residents between June and September 2021.

They also undertook fact-finding visits, including going out on the streets with police officers, attending Redbridge’s CCTV control centre and hearing from young people at youth clubs and gyms.

Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal said: “We all deserve to feel safe on our streets and that’s why Redbridge Council has been proactively engaging with local people, finding out what’s worrying our neighbours and working with the police to make Redbridge safe."

He added it had organised the commission, a crime survey and regular safety walks with the police.

Cllr Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, spoke in support of the Met's actions. Picture: Andrew

Cllr Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, spoke in support of the Met's actions. Picture: Andrew Baker/Redbridge Council - Credit: Andrew Baker

"We've acted immediately on the feedback we’ve had from local people.

"Not only have we increased CCTV across the borough, monitored 24/7, we’ve also opened enforcement hubs and a mobile enforcement hub, bringing police and council enforcement officers to every doorstep in Redbridge."

Cabinet members agreed to adopt the recommendations made by the commission.