Keeping Women Safe On British Streets

People felt less safe when walking alone after dark than during the day, Indeed, almost 50% of women feel unsafe walking alone in the dark, according to recent figures from the British government Office for National Statistics.

One in two women and one in seven men felt unsafe walking alone after dark in a quiet street near their home. They might call a friend, share their location on WhatsApp, or have their keys to hand, all strategies to stay secure.

Now, since the recent brutal murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, the WalkSafe app has had a surge in popularity, and is now the fastest-growing safety app in the UK.

Sexual harassment against females has been under the spotlight for most of this year, with women across the UK turning to their own methods to feel better when they are out at night.  “This is the first time the ONS has asked people about feelings of personal safety when walking alone in different public settings. We explored how those feelings are influenced by personal experience of harassment and if they affected behaviours... There are some clear findings: men and women both feel less safe after dark, but the extent to which women feel unsafe is significantly greater. Disabled people, too, are more likely to feel unsafe, even in the daytime in busy public place,” said Nick Stripe, Head of Crime Statistics Branch, Office for National Statistics

When looking at sex and age together, women aged 16 to 34 years and 75 years and over felt less safe, in most settings than females in other age groups. WalkSafe founder Emma Kaye came up with the concept after experiencing harassment, groping and flashing. "Our app is really bitter-sweet because, of course, we love that we're busy. However, we really wish it didn't have to exist. No-one wants to live in a world where we need a safety app, but sadly there is a place for it," she said.

WalkSafe will have a new sat-nav feature coming early next year, which will include a live map where your family and friends will be able to track your journey and chat with you in real time. 

For now its unique selling point is a map which allows people to plan their safest route home, by looking at recent crime data. Ms Kaye said: "Our app encourages people to have precautionary measures to avoid crime, rather than reactionary measures when in an unfortunate situation. "We have senior ex-Metropolitan Police detectives and crime analysts comb through this data, and categorise it into areas the user would want to know about. By looking at the crime patterns, users can identify crime hotspots so they can plan safer routes."

Since launching in March this year, the app has had more than 560,000 downloads and in July the Home Office launched a £5 million fund to help improve the safety of women in public spaces at night. Some of the successful bids include initiatives involving technology. 

  • Police in Bristol are using new kits to test whether drinks have been spiked in nightclubs.
  • Cheshire police are improving current call handling technology to provide an instant visible and reassuring response to a female calling for support.
  • West Yorkshire Combined Authority is promoting access to an online link with safety information for women on public transport, such as bus tracking, so there is no longer a need to stand alone at a bus stop.

Technology can also be misused by those seeking to harm or frighten people and the same technology that allows you to find your lost smartphone can be used by someone wanting to track or stalk someone.

ONS.Gov:       BBC:        Independent:   

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