I am not only writing this foreword as the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, but as a husband and father of two daughters. I believe it is my moral duty to do everything I can to keep Kent safe for women and girls.
Tragic events have highlighted that more needs to be done to address cases of violence against women and girls nationwide. Tackling this is one of my key priorities in Kent’s new Police and Crime Plan, called Making Kent Safer. I will be monitoring how the force deals with incidents, how offenders are brought to justice and how victims are being supported.
More than 8,200 people filled in my survey. It proved how strongly people feel about this: respondents told me they didn’t feel safe in their town centres at night; they told me they viewed harassment as something to be endured, not reported; 63% of those who had been a victim admitted they had not reported the crime to any agency, often because they felt nothing would or could be done.
As well as the survey, I commissioned specialist analysis that will lead to a perpetrator problem profile using crime data held by Kent Police. This focused on male offenders and female victims for the purposes of this inquiry. Between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2022 there have been 49,055 male offenders, over the age of 18, and 56,358 different victims of violence against women and girls related crimes, including domestic abuse, stalking, harassment, sexual offences, and drink spiking. These statistics only include those women and girls who have reported cases to the Police, the actual figure will be significantly higher.
However, over the course of this inquiry, I have been encouraged to hear about the excellent work already going on to make women and girls feel safer in the county. My office has secured Safer Streets funding from the Government to provide several local safety partnerships with improved lighting, active by-stander training, safe space havens in local businesses and personal security devices. I have heard how one Community Safety Partnership is working with a local transport company to provide safe travel for women on nights out. Other Community Safety Partnerships and Kent Police have been promoting the use of the Hollie Guard app (designed to monitor a woman’s journey and alert friends or family should they not arrive). Personal safety training has been provided in some areas whilst increased and improved CCTV has been installed in others. This is all good progress and I hope sharing best practice county-wide will encourage others to develop their own strategies.
My office has also secured funding for a bespoke offender rehabilitation scheme, which although in its infancy, is confident of yielding encouraging results. I also welcome the new Kent police force strategy to tackle violence against women and girls. It is my job to hold the Chief Constable to account and I shall be monitoring the results of these changes closely. The series of engagement events, held with women and girls across the county, showed there was still work to do to re-build trust in some areas.
However, this issue cannot be tackled by the Police, my office or local community safety partnerships alone. We must continue to work together to achieve success across four key pillars: Prevention, Engagement, the Victim’s Journey and Rehabilitation. Only then can we say we have done all we can to make women and girls feel safer in Kent.
The Report below includes highlights from the data analysis of reported crime; my survey results; what work has already been undertaken, and some recommendations for partner agencies to consider.