Police launch new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls
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Northamptonshire Police has today (Wednesday, 08 June) launched a strategy outlining how it plans to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG).
Women and girls are disproportionately affected by violence and abuse, which includes rape and sexual offences, domestic abuse, honour-based abuse, and stalking and harassment.
This issue is a matter of priority for the Force, which is sending a strong message that these types of offences will not be tolerated and that perpetrators will be relentlessly pursued.
The Force is committed to helping the county create an environment that is free of fear and harassment and where women and girls can feel safe and be safe wherever they are within Northamptonshire.
In addition to violence and abuse, women and girls are also more likely to be affected by inappropriate contact, catcalling, misogyny, explicit messaging, and unwanted touching – and although these behaviours may not all meet a criminal threshold, they could be precursors for further offending, and add to women feeling unsafe.
The Force’s new strategy complements the national policing framework for VAWG and its three key objectives.
Pursuit of Perpetrators
Increasing trust and confidence in policing
Creating safe spaces (in private, in public and online)
Detective Superintendent Joe Banfield, who heads up the Protecting Vulnerable People command for Northamptonshire Police said: “We want Northamptonshire to be a place where women and girls can live confidently, where they can work, study, socialise and travel safely without feeling frightened, intimidated or harassed.
“The wide spectrum of violence, abuse, and intimidation committed against women and girls is wholly unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
“Our new VAWG strategy outlines the action and activity we will focus on to protect women and girls in our county from crimes that disproportionately affect them.
“It is important to call attention to the fact that we cannot do this work alone. We must work in partnership for things to change. This is an issue not just for policing but for society as a whole - in parenting, in education and in culture.
“To get to the root of the problem we need to see a shift in societal attitudes that normalise and tolerate this kind of abuse. We need to stand together to put a stop to it.”
The Force is fully supportive of the It Only Takes One campaign recently launched in the county, which aims to raise awareness of all forms of harassment and violence against women, and to highlight that it only takes one person to say enough is enough to challenge misogynistic attitudes and inappropriate behaviours.
Pursuit of Perpetrators
Ultimately the police want to reduce incidents of violence against women, so the new strategy includes a focus on tackling perpetrators, whether through intervention or prevention or by robustly bringing offenders to justice.
Detective Chief Inspector Nickie Deeks, the Force lead for VAWG, explained: ”We want to secure as many convictions as possible to keep women safe. We will work closely with criminal justice services to increase the number of rape and serious sexual assault cases coming to court and being successfully prosecuted, as well as more domestic abuse offenders being brought to justice for their crimes.
“We know some women who are sexually assaulted don’t come forward and report because they fear they won’t be believed. This definitely isn’t the case. We are joint top out of 43 police forces for accurately recording sexual crimes, so victims can be confident in coming forward. We will believe you, and we will do all we can to support you.
“We are already seeing positive outcomes in our pursuit of perpetrators. On average more than 11 men each week in this county are successfully convicted for VAWG offences. In the last 12 months alone, we have seen 615 perpetrators brought to justice and more will follow.
“We are certainly not taking our foot off the gas. There is more to do, and we are determined our detection rates and the quality of our investigations will continue to improve. We will use every policing power and tool at our disposal to better safeguard victims.”
Build Trust and Confidence
Following the horrific rape and murder last year of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, the Force acknowledges that to rebuild public trust and confidence in policing it is important to ensure the very highest professional standards.
The Force will root out any bad apples within its workforce. Predatory and misogynistic behaviour will not be tolerated. The working environment must be respectful and inclusive of all sexes.
DCI Deeks said: “The Chief Constable has very clear expectations of officers and staff and will not stand for unacceptable behaviour. We have robust measures in place to deal with poor professional standards.
“We want the public to feel reassured and have full confidence in our abilities and to know that we will do our very best for them. We want victims to feel supported at every step.
“We have plans to increase our work with women’s groups to ensure we listen to the voices of women and girls – particularly victims from Black and minoritised groups.
“We will continue to work closely with victim services including Voice for Victims and Witnesses, and with Rape Crisis, who both provide expert emotional support, help and practical advice to victims. We also work with a number of other specialist organisations and charities.”
The Force has recently introduced specialist Crisis Independent Domestic Violence Advisors who work in the force control room. They offer advice to officers during live domestic abuse incidents, and visit victims at home alongside police officers. In addition, the police use the expertise of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors to support victims of rape and serious sexual assault.
The Force remains committed to investigating historic sexual offences. For instance, as a result of its appeals in June 2020, and an investigation into reports of sexual abuse during the period 2006 to 2016, originating in Abington Street, last month Cuneyt Yildirim, a 27-year-old man, pleaded guilty to multiple offences. He is due to be sentenced at Northampton Crown Court on 24 June.
Creating Safe Spaces
Home should be a safe space, but for some women and girls this is not case. The Force deals on average with around 1200 domestic abuse incidents a month. Although domestic violence happens in all relationships, statistics show the vast majority is carried out by men and experienced by women.
The new VAWG strategy looks to protect domestic abuse (DA) victims better and significantly reduce repeat DA incidents. In the past 12 months the Force has seen a five per cent reduction in victims and hopes this downward trend continues.
As well as feeling safe at home, women should feel comfortable enough to travel anywhere in Northamptonshire without looking over their shoulder. And enjoy nights out without being groped, cat-called or intimidated.
The Force has introduced Operation Kayak, a proactive policing operation where uniformed officers undertake hot spot patrols on Friday and Saturday nights and on student nights to help safeguard the public and protect against sexual harassment, and inappropriate behaviour.
Op Kayak is designed to reduce offending by specifically looking out for individuals who are being sexually aggressive, intimidating, or displaying inappropriate behaviours.
Officers also look to spot vulnerable people and so far more than 240 individuals have been safeguarded because of this operation.
The Force will continue their work with the Community Safety Partnerships to reduce and tackle crime and disorder and improve safety on the streets.
The police are also encouraging the public to use the StreetSafe online reporting tool, where they can anonymously report public places where they have felt or feel unsafe, because of environmental issues, such as street lighting, abandoned buildings or vandalism and/or because of some behaviours, like being followed or verbally abused.
The data from StreetSafe is used by police and community safety partnerships to shape a better understanding and inform community safety activities.
Northamptonshire Police has also designed an additional set of questions as part of their Local Identified Priorities Survey to understand both the experiences and perceptions of safety of women and girls. This will enable the Force to identify how to tackle this issue even more effectively.
Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “I am pleased that violence against women is a priority for Northamptonshire Police. As a community, we all have a part to play in tackling the culture where harassment and violence against women are much too commonplace and it really is time to say enough is enough.
“I was pleased to launch a joint campaign – It Only Takes One – involving a number of partners with an ongoing commitment to tackling violence against women. It really is everyone’s responsibility, and the launch of the Police strategy today is a clear reminder of the part the police will play, not just with robust enforcement against perpetrators but also in preventing incidents from happening in the first place.
“Harassment and violence against women are not ok. Working together, we can make the change happen and make Northamptonshire a safer place.”
Though VAWG is a matter of priority, it should be noted that Northamptonshire Police will not neglect reports of violent and abusive offences directed towards men, nor crimes perpetrated by women.
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault, whether recent or non-recent, please come forward by calling 101 or via the Northamptonshire Police online reporting tool at www.northants.police.uk
If you have been a victim of a sexual offence or domestic abuse but are not yet ready to speak to the police, please visit www.voicenorthants.org or call Voice on 0300 303 1965.
Voice is a support service for anyone living in Northamptonshire, regardless of when, where or how crime happened to you. Services are free, confidential and you don’t have to have reported anything to the police.