Do women feel safe in Leicester?

Sisters Almas Mohamedrafi (25) and Aqsha (23) in Leicester
We asked women whether they felt safe in the city and what could be done if they didn't. Sisters Almas Mohamedrafi (25) and Aqsha (23) -Credit:Leicester Mercury

In the three years since 33-year-old Sarah Everard was raped and murdered as she walked home in London, there has been an increased spotlight on gender-based violence. As a new action plan is rolled out across the county to safeguard women and girls, we asked women in Leicester for their opinions on whether or not they feel safe in the city.

LeicestershireLive spoke to students, parents, a performer who had recently moved from London and sisters who regularly visit Leicester for its choice of food. Many felt that Leicester was safe during the day but that changed in the evenings, although one said that this was the “same anywhere for women”.

A 19-year-old student believed that police forces in general needed to do a “better job of acknowledging” that it can be “scary” for women, while another woman from Spinney Hills felt the city “needed something” such as more visible police patrols.

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Kathy, 45, from South Leicester said she felt safe in the city during the day, but not at night. She said: “We have got a bit of a problem particularly with drinking alcohol.

“There’s quite a lot of homelessness around; I feel fine, but my teenage daughters would feel a bit unsafe about being out in particular areas in the evenings.”

Marian, 22, lives on London Road in Leicester and she agreed. “Right now I’m fine, but if it's later on in the evening when it gets dark, it’s quite empty with the odd homeless man,” she said.

Ruth from Oadby, 54, said she wished there weren't “so many” electric bikes and scooters. “You have to look behind you all the time to see whether you are about to be run over,” she said.

“You get a few gangs of youths with face coverings. [However] I do not think Leicester is bad as far as cities go.”

Beth Lyons, 27, is a performer who works in London and recently moved to Leicester city centre because of cheaper rents compared to the capital and because of the city’s transport links. She felt Leicester was a “pretty safe place”.

She said: “But there’s often an issue with the homelessness crisis which is making it [Leicester] feel a bit more uncomfortable. It is just in pockets right in the centre of town.

“I think the way they approach people is quite intimidating. Coming from London we do see a lot of homelessness, but I think you do see quite a lot of aggressiveness with some of them [in Leicester].

Shoppers near Leicester's Clock Tower
Shoppers in Leicester city centre on Thursday, May 2 -Credit:Leicester Mercury

“I think there needs to be more support to help people get off our streets. Because I do not think they have any alternative.

Harsha, 19, and Milica, 18, are students at the University of Leicester. They said they didn’t feel safe at night in Leicester but said “that’s anywhere for women”.

Harsha said that she had “never felt unsafe on campus”, while Milica always took “precautions” and said that you always have to “be aware of your surroundings.”

She said: “I feel like as a whole the police can do a better job of acknowledging that it is scary for women, and taking women more seriously that they are concerned. You have to think about your sisters, daughters and friends.”

Harsha said she believed concerns can sometimes be “dismissed quite a lot”. “It just gets overlooked and can become generalised,” she said.

Milica said: “I guarantee if you ask any woman they have experienced some form of harassment or assault. It’s all about educating people from when they are young and it’s about who you were brought up around and surrounded by.”

When asked if she felt safe, Fatima Sacranie, 40, from Spinney Hills, said “definitely not”. “The homeless people, the number of drugs, [it’s] far from the high street it was in the nineties when I was growing up.

“Our work night outs are in Nottingham and it’s far from what Leicester city is. I think the council has done nothing.

“Yes, they have got homelessness issues but it’s not as bad as Leicester. They come at you and shout at you if you don’t give them money.

“I think they need something, whether it's council presence, police presence. Let’s be honest, there are not many people around. It makes you think about where your taxes are going.”

Sisters, Aqsha, 23, and Almas, 25, Mohamedrafi, visit Leicester for the food. They said they both “felt safe” in the city.

Almas said: “ We moved away [from Leicester] because of our job opportunities, it is very overpopulated. We often come [back] to Leicester for food, we have got different types around here, Chinese, Indian, Asian. The people over here are friendly and nice and are quite welcoming.”

In March, Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Rupert Matthews, unveiled a “new joint action plan” to try to safeguard women and girls.

The strategy outlines the key ways public sector agencies will prevent and respond to crimes such as rape, sexual assault, stalking, domestic abuse, honour-based violence and other gender-based violence over the next three years. The PCC's office said the strategy had been developed in consultation with survivors with lived experience of VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) crimes, young people and stakeholders and the voice of victims would remain critical to the delivery of the strategy.

It said the plan will draw on evidence that intervening early can prevent violence from escalating and further offending occurring. It sets out five core priorities:

  • Preventing violence against women and girls

  • Responding to violence against women and girls

  • Supporting victims and survivors

  • Including people with lived experience in designing services

  • Strengthening the VAWG sector across all LLR’s communities

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