Councillor Claire Rowles, who represents the Hungerford and Kintbury Ward, has been appointed as the first Safer Street Champion by West Berkshire Council.
The Safer Streets Champion will work with West Berkshire communities to understand their concerns about street harassment and receive suggestions on how the issue should be addressed.
Street harassment is harassment in public areas such as streets, shopping centres, public open spaces and public transport. Street harassment can involve sexual harassment, including unwanted sexualised comments, provocative gestures or even being subjected to indecent exposure or touching by strangers.
West Berkshire Council took the decision to create the Safer Streets Champion role in response to the recent spotlight on street harassment, following the murder of Sarah Everard in Clapham, London, at the beginning of March 2021.
West Berkshire has a low rate of violent and sexual crime which is below the national and regional average, but the Council wants people to feel safe, as well as be safe, when they go out.
Councillor Claire Rowles is a qualified lawyer and feels that her understanding of the criminal justice system and police powers will help her be the Safer Streets Champion.
Councillor Claire Rowles said:
Street harassment is an issue that many people have experienced, but it does predominantly affect women and I know personally what it is like to be harassed on the street and the anxiety of not being able to walk alone without concern for my safety.
I am fully committed to working in partnership with the appropriate bodies to ensure that West Berkshire Council continues to be safe place for everyone.
As the Safer Streets Champion, Claire Rowles’ responsibilities will include:
- Working in partnership with Thames Valley Police to explore a potential bid for Safer Streets grant funding.
- Working closely with the Public Protection Partnership, Thames Valley Police, Town Centre managers and others to challenge and rid the District of street harassment.
- Working with Laura Farris, MP Newbury, Rt Hon Alok Sharma, MP Reading West and the Rt Hon John Redwood, MP Wokingham, to seek further powers for the Police to be able to take appropriate action where street harassment is witnessed or reported.
Lynne Doherty, Leader of West Berkshire Council, said:
The Government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce has said that it will introduce immediate steps to tackle street harassment, following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard and West Berkshire Council welcomes this action.
By creating the Safer Streets Champion role, we feel that we are working with the Government to address street harassment and provide more reassurance to residents, particularly those who are female, that we are making every effort to ensure that they are safe on our streets.
Claire sits on the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel and the Council has every confidence that she will make an exceptional Safer Streets Champion.
The Safer Streets Champion role will be reviewed each year and appointed at the Annual Meeting of the Council.