Posted: Friday 16th September 2016
Personal safety isn’t often top of the agenda when young people first embark on their studies in Nottinghamshire - and it probably wasn’t for me either when I first came to Nottingham Uni as a student, a very long time ago. The start of university life or a new academic year is very exciting and Nottingham’s vibrant nightlife and cultural offering is one of the reasons so many young people are attracted to study here.
City life is alive with fun and opportunity. Unless you’ve been a victim of crime already, it’s a little hard to fully appreciate the impact it can have on confidence and emotional wellbeing, especially when you’re living away from your family. I hope that none of you have to endure such an ordeal which is why I’m working very hard to increase your safety and make your experience of the city a positive one.
Much has happened since I first wrote this blog, including the fact that I’ve been re-elected to serve Nottinghamshire for another four years. I’ve hit the ground running since May and already there’s lots of innovation to make the city safer and reduce the risks to young people.
One of the most significant steps has been our approach to tackling harassment, specifically against women. We recently hit the headlines by becoming the first force in the country to categorise misogyny as a hate crime, sending a very powerful message to victims about how seriously we take their experiences.
This pioneering move was actually born out of research undertaken with our student population by the Nottingham Women’s Centre which discovered 88% of 18-25-year-olds had been harassed on at least one occasion in 12 months, with many experiencing incidents at least once a month. I had the opportunity of hearing many of these stories from the victims’ themselves during a national conference on street harassment which examined sexism in a variety of settings including on campus and within the night-time economy where many incidents occur.
Young women face a whole host of distressing behaviour including unwanted physical approaches – it’s not all about wolf-whistling. I’m very mindful of the positive impact the new classification will have on our young female students who are frequent visitors to Nottingham’s nightlife. It means they can now report incidents which might not have otherwise been considered a crime and the police will investigate.
While I’m realistic that the new classification isn’t going to prevent every incident of harassment women encounter on our streets, on campus or in our entertainment venues, I am nonetheless focused on changing a culture that has previously made it somewhat acceptable. By taking a strong stance, I’m hopeful that perpetrators of this behaviour will start to question their misguided attitudes and behaviour and its impact on a victim.
Hate crime is another area in which we are strengthening our resolve. We know that the number of hate crime incidents reported to the police is just the tip of the iceberg and that many victims, especially young people, live in silence and fear. How are we going to change this? Well it is my view that the more help we provide victims and the more confidence they have in police to resolve their experiences, the more likely they are to come forward.
The University of Nottingham is at the centre of positive work to tackle prejudice and I’m very grateful for its support. Initiatives such as the Stand by Me campaign, run by students themselves, work hard to educate other students on what hate crime is and how to report it which help to increase reporting.
We also have a new victims’ model launching in the New Year which will enable any victim of crime to seek help to recover from their experiences, regardless of whether or not a crime has occurred, and we will be working within our diverse communities to ensure everybody knows how to access this support.
Among our other successes, I’m exceptionally pleased to see the amazing progress made in terms of Stop and Search which now sees Nottinghamshire Police with one of the lowest stop and search rates in the country but the highest positive outcome rate. Young people often ask me about stop and search and it remains a common barrier to improving relationships between police and the younger generation.
My Youth Commission has completed some early research into how we can increase awareness of stop and search procedures and their validity and this is something we’re discussing. I’m determined this policing strategy is used in a way that reassures our communities and will continue to ensure it is robustly monitored in the future.
I’m immensely proud of the team work going on to keep Nottinghamshire safe. The city has achieved Purple Flag status for the sixth successive year which should give plenty of reassurance to our newcomers that there are clear and sound policies in place to protect them. On top of this, crime in the county is falling faster than almost anywhere else in the UK and Nottinghamshire Police is the fastest improving police force in England and Wales. It is my vision to continue this.
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner