Sarah Everard case sparks Police £800k safety funding boost for region

Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness has promised to improve transport and park safety with an £800,000 investment in CCTV, Metro safety volunteers, increased lighting and a new reporting app.

The police commissioner is investing in two new packages of Safer Streets funding after hearing from women, passengers and park visitors setting out the places in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear where they feel less safe.

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The investment follows national concern around women’s safety in light of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard.

The first safety package will see the Commissioner work with Metro operator Nexus, bus operators and the regional transport board on a £400,000 package including:

·       a new reporting app to transform how all passengers report crime and anti-social behaviour;

·       body-worn cameras for transport staff;

·       Street Pastor-style safety volunteers on patrol across the Metro network; and

·       extra CCTV linked to control rooms.

The second safety package sees another £400,000 go towards:

·       New CCTV cameras in parks built into help points fitted in parks, that are linked to CCTV control rooms;

·       An independent review of street lighting in the parks selected and recommendations for new street lights were needed; and

·       Academic research into what makes a safe park, where women and girls will be invited to form a new safety steering group to help design new safety standards for parks across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear.

Investment will go to parks across all six council areas in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, including Ashington’s Hirst Park, Gateshead’s Saltwell Park and Mowbray Park in Sunderland.

Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness said: “I want Northumberland, Tyne and Wear to have a first-class public transport network in which women and all passengers feel safe to travel. This £800,000 is a vital first step towards that.

“When people are on a bus or a metro they should know that there is always help at hand.  We want to give the reporting of ASB a complete overhaul and make it so much easier for local people to get the help they need when they need it. We also want to implement practical solutions like help points and improve lighting. We want to support all this with educational campaigns to raise awareness and promote the support services that people can turn to.”

Cllr Martin Gannon Gateshead Council leader and chair of the region’s joint transport committee, welcomed the announcement.

He said: “It is great to see this investment to make public transport safer in the region. We recently set out a roadmap in the 2021 North East Transport Plan to build on the infrastructure in place to achieve a safer and more attractive transport network, which reflects many of the findings from the recent survey.

“This is a big step towards making people feel safe on our streets so that there is higher take up of walking and cycling, which are the greenest and healthiest forms of travel, as well as public transport use in the region.”

The funding is part of the Home Office’s Safer Streets funding pot. The scheme divides £25m among bidders across the country, but the funding must be spent by spring 2022.

Kim added: “It’s great we have this investment, but one off funding pots are not going to make women safer. We have to bring about longer term change, and that means longer term funding from the government.