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Home Office Refuses to Reveal Where in Surrey Women Report Safety Fears

Published on: 2 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 3 Dec, 2021

Photo: Mandy Millyard

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

The Home Office is refusing to reveal the Surrey locations where primarly women and girls have reported feeling unsafe under a pilot scheme.

The StreetSafe scheme was launched in September to give people the chance to flag areas on a map where they didn’t feel safe, regardless of whether a crime had taken place. It is aimed primarily at women and girls.

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At a press conference on October 21, Surrey Police said a total so far of 436 places had been reported in Surrey, but when asked they said they could not reveal the locations because the scheme was being operated centrally by the Home Office.

The Home Office has responsibility for overall policing in England and Wales but each force is locally managed.

A Freedom of Information request sent by the LDRS to reveal the places that had been reported by the public was refused on the grounds that the information “relates to the formulation or development of government policy”.

The Home Office said it had to balance the public interest in releasing the information with a risk of “contributing to or perpetuating a climate of public fear”.

The information requested included the total number, and locations, of places that had been reported via the scheme, and if the information would be made public.

Despite confirming that it held the information, a response from the National Police Capabilities Unit said a pilot was a key tool in developing and implementing policy.

The statement said: “A key consideration in this context is how best to balance the need between legitimate public interest in information such as that you requested and the risk of contributing to or perpetuating a climate of public fear, which may lead to members of the public feeling that some areas are off-limits.

“The StreetSafe pilot will be evaluated to inform a decision as to whether to decommission or fully operationalise the tool.

“If a decision is taken to continue and expand the tool, consideration will be given as to how to address the questions you pose and how to share information in a way that can help local communities.”

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A Surrey Police statement released when the scheme was launched said that StreetSafe, primarily aimed at women and girls, would let members of the public anonymously drop a pin onto a map and give reasons why they felt unsafe there.

The statement continued: “These could range from a poorly-lit walkway to instances of public harassment and will mean concerns can be raised with police, whether or not a crime has been committed.

“The information will be used alongside other key data by policing, in partnership with stakeholders, to deliver improved well-being and safety for communities.”

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