More than £1 million is to be invested in projects to improve community safety in Bedfordshire after the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) secured funding from the fourth round of the Safer Streets project.
Around £730,000 will be spent to support efforts to tackle violence against women and girls and make them feel safer across the county.
Projects set to be funded include an education and awareness programme to go into schools across the county, taking Bedfordshire Police’s Project Firefly operation county-wide as well as exploring new ways women and girls can report when they feel unsafe.
The programme has been informed by data from surveys, police, Crimestoppers and in consultation with local authorities and women’s charities.
A further £294,000 will be invested in schemes to tackle anti-social behaviour in the Luton South ward.
PCC Festus Akinbusoye said: “We want to work together across Bedfordshire to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) and raise awareness about unacceptable behaviour such as sexual harassment.
“We know that much of this behaviour is driven by male perpetrators, and a key part of this work will focus on encouraging men to step up and speak out about bad behaviour and ways to challenge it. We all have a responsibility to tackle this.
“This does not mean that men are never victims of violence, or that women are not sometimes perpetrators. However, local and national data shows a clear disproportionality along gender lines.
“Our bid aims to utilise the funding to reach and support the largest number of victims, perpetrators, and communities across the county with the aim of educating, raising awareness, improving the feeling of safety in public spaces, and increasing reporting of violence against women and girls.
“Any victim of violence and abuse deserves to access support and help and this money will help us deliver a number of initiatives across the county to make women and girls feel safer.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Dee Perkins, Bedfordshire Police’s lead for male violence against women and girls, said: “This funding is a huge boost for the work we are doing to make women and girls in Bedfordshire feel safe.
“We have a clear focus here in Bedfordshire on male violence. The vast majority of offences like domestic abuse and sexual assault are committed by male perpetrators against women and girls. These offenders have been put on notice that we are coming after them
“This Safer Streets funding gives us a fantastic opportunity to do more comprehensive work to raise awareness, change behaviour and encourage people to come forward.
“Things like misogyny and cat calling can be precursors to more serious behaviour, and they make women and girls feel unsafe. We must all call this kind of behaviour out and rid them from our communities.”
Annabelle Goodenough, regional manager for Crimestoppers, said: “Crimestoppers are absolutely delighted to be working with partners once again to tackle violence against women and girls.
“This is an area of work we feel deeply passionate about, and we look forward to supporting the Safer Streets 4 initiative in Bedfordshire”.
Vicky Hawkes, Service Manager for Neighbourhood Services at Luton Council, said: “This is great news for Luton, enabling us to continue to deliver and support initiatives which implement sustainable changes to residential areas with high levels of anti-social behaviour.
“This funding will allow us to deliver interventions such as increased street lighting and additional CCTV, along with environmental changes (gating orders on alleyways, improvements to subways) and other crime reduction materials.
“This the second Safer Streets fund that we’ve been awarded. These two successful bids show our commitment to making streets safer for those in local communities, and to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour related issues, including violence against women and girls, and sexual harassment.”
The Home Office has this week awarded £50 million of new funding through the Safer Streets Fund.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) in Bedfordshire had previously secured £1.8 million of funding from Safer Streets.
“Since the fund was launched in 2020, PCCs have successfully applied for £120million of Safer Streets funding on behalf of their communities to deliver valuable prevention projects which support vulnerable people and deter them from a life of crime, fund campaigns and projects which challenge behaviours and attitudes towards women and girls and introduce safety measures,” said Mr Akinbusoye.
“It is positive to see the focus on this year’s fund includes violence against women and girls and ASB, key issues that PCCs have sought to prevent and raise awareness of through their work on the APCC VAWG Action Plan and during ASB Awareness Week.
“PCCs will now kickstart work with colleagues across local areas to ensure this crucial funding is maximised to prevent crime and victims, and make our streets safer.”