prevention work to help protect women and girls
Women and girls are being protected on the streets of Essex as the county takes the lead in finding preventative measures. Following the murder of Sarah Everard as she walked home alone in London last year, crime fighting agencies in Essex set about ensuring women in the county were kept as safe as possible.
As a result, a £54,000 Home Office Science, Technology, Analysis and Research (STAR) grant is being invested in finding the danger hotspots for women in the county.
Hundreds of partners came together for the first Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex conference since the pandemic on Tuesday 24th May 2022.
The People, Partnerships and Prevention event, at Colchester Stadium, focussed on some of the most harmful and impactful crimes affecting society and asked what more could be done together to bring about prevention and early intervention.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “It is not acceptable that women feel unsafe in their own communities. It is not acceptable they feel unsafe in public spaces. I cannot pretend I have that shared experience; I do not know how they feel.
“But, as a man, I can condemn male violence against women. I have never hit a woman and I never will. All the men in this room need to stand up in their communities and make sure we, as men, make it clear to our fellow men it is not acceptable behaviour and not something we will put up with.
“There is a lot we can do about it as agencies and as a police service. We need to make sure we are supportive and accepting of issues that come forward. This is something I care deeply about and I am sure you care deeply about. Let’s make sure we work in partnership. It is about sharing a common focus to make a big difference to people in our communities.”
Victims, practitioners, policymakers and academics shared knowledge, experience and ideas to bring about new ways of making Essex a safer place for all. Partners attended workshops to hear more about the extensive work going on in the county to prevent crime from happening in the first place.
Among the workshops was Understanding Women and Girls Safety in Open Spaces – sharing the latest developments in Project Minerva, the collaborative approach to protecting females in Essex.
The Home Office funded work began with an analysis of every neighbourhood in Essex, with Nottingham Trent University working with Essex Police, Essex County Council and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.
The project has so far resulted in a detailed map showing every hotspot road in the county where women are at increased risk of violence.
Minerva Zones will now be shared with the Safer Essex Partnership and Community Safety Partnerships to put together bespoke partnership plans to tackle the causes of violence against women and girls in that location.
Dr James Hunter, from Nottingham Trent University, said: “These hotspots where women are becoming victims rather than men indicate something is going on in those areas. By identifying Minerva Zones, all partnership agencies can work together collectively to better understand what is driving the increase in those areas.
“Streets do not automatically look unsafe to walk down. We may know the hotspot neighbourhoods, but this work has taken it further to look within those neighbourhoods and find the specific streets which are the hotspots.
“You cannot apply a universal approach as all hotspots are in different locations. We need bespoke and local interventions to make areas safer and prevent these incidents from occurring.”
Amanda Johnson, senior project manager for the Emergency Services Collaboration Programme, said: “We have identified the more vulnerable, high harm areas for women’s safety across Essex. We wanted to get it down to street level.
“This is just the start. We have the intelligence now to really focus our efforts. It has given us the tools to focus our interventions which is so important for the Community Safety Partnerships.”
Supt Richard Melton, project manager, believes the strong partnerships across Essex ensure women and girls feel safer throughout the county.
He said: “With the best intentions, we all want to tackle violence against women and girls in Essex, but we needed to know where to start. The Minerva data is telling us where to start. Minerva is the goddess of wisdom – we now have the wisdom.
“After six months of extensive research, we are in a position early on to say we have a strategy. I would imagine we are one of the leading forces with this issue.
“We want to get rid of violence against women and girls completely in Essex and we are standing shoulder to shoulder with local authorities and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service to achieve this ambition.”