International Women’s Day: Hertfordshire Constabulary announces new strategy for tackling violence against women and girls
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A new force strategy to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) has been agreed by police leaders in Hertfordshire ahead of International Women’s Day (8 March).
Chief Constable Charlie Hall and David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, signed off the new plan on Monday (7 March) which provides a roadmap for how the constabulary takes on this challenge.
The document incorporates national VAWG strategies but has also been developed in consultation with local partners including the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, the NHS and children’s and adults’ safeguarding services.
It builds on recent work conducted by the force since the tragic death of Sarah Everard in London last year, which includes a strategic needs assessment for the county, based in part on a public survey that attracted more than 13,000 public responses.
Chief Constable Hall said: “Hertfordshire is a safe place, but sadly violence against women and girls is something that exists throughout the UK and the wider world. We recognise and understand the strength of public feeling prompted by the tragic death of Sarah Everard, and have been working to better understand the issues around it so we can tackle it effectively, alongside partner agencies and the public.
“We must support and listen to victims, look at why some public spaces make people feel unsafe, and use the powers available earlier to challenge perpetrators and prevent further harm from taking place. This strategy brings all this work together as well as how we as police officers must uphold the highest standards and challenge misogynistic, sexist or sexualised behaviour anywhere within policing.
“Tackling violence against women and girls is an absolute priority for Hertfordshire Constabulary and this strategy shows our continued commitment to tackling it.”
David Lloyd said: “This is a really important area of policing which the public are concerned about, and one which they are looking for action and reassurance on.
“I have focussed on this area since 2012, and Hertfordshire is in a good place when compared with the rest of the country – remaining one of the safest counties. But I want to do more and to see even fewer victims of crime.
“The constabulary has also been working hard to reduce violence against women and girls, and make them feel safer. This has resulted in this strategy and further dedicated actions will be outlined in my new Police and Crime Plan which is due to be published this month.”
What does the force’s VAWG strategy do?
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s VAWG strategy sets out how the force will tackle this area in the years to come.
It incorporates recommendations from the Government, National Police Chiefs’ Council and HMICFRS, as well as the National Vulnerability Action Plan. It is also driven locally by the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan, the Herts County Community Safety Unit’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and other local strategies.
The strategy sets outs governance and performance of the force in tackling VAWG, with much of the work overseen by Chief Officers. For the public however the main focuses are:
Listening to victims’ voices and experiences in order to improve the force’s services to them.
Identifying public spaces and other settings where people feel vulnerable, and work with partners to improve people’s feelings of safety in these locations.
Challenging perpetrators of violence and abuse and preventing the harm they cause by identifying them earlier and using all the legal powers available to police to disrupt and stop their behaviour.
Engaging with communities to increase confidence in reporting, share information about where to get support for those affected by violence and abuse. And:
Demonstrate the highest ethical standards – As a force and as officers we must uphold the highest standards and not tolerate misogynistic, sexist or sexualised behaviour anywhere within policing. We must be upstanders, not bystanders. The strategy focuses on police officer behaviour, which includes culture, training, recruitment and so on.
The strategy is for the force. It is a policing strategy. However, recognising that VAWG is not an issue that can be solved by policing alone, the force is also working with partner agencies within Hertfordshire as well to create a wider partnership strategy for tackling VAWG.
What has been done already to tackle VAWG in Hertfordshire?
The strategy sets out what the force is to do to tackle VAWG, however this is not the starting point. Much has been done already in this area and has continued alongside the development of the strategy.
A countywide personal safety survey conducted by the County Community Safety Unit (a joint constabulary and Hertfordshire County Council department) last year received more than 13,000 public responses. This formed part of a joint strategic needs assessment.
Community Safety Partnerships and Safer Neighbourhood Teams across the county continue to monitor reports of violence and assaults against women and girls to understand crime patterns and areas of concern.
More locally the government’s StreetSafe scheme and the force’s feedback system ‘echo’ have been used to gather information from the public (including men and boys) about locations that are of concern. This information is considered by Safer Neighbourhood Teams in conjunction with local partners to see what can be done to resolve these concerns and make areas safer.
There are many other local schemes around the county that police have led on or been involved in, including the ‘safe zone’ at PRYZM nightclub in Watford, and a pilot training scheme for licensees in East Herts to improve their understanding of vulnerability. The force’s Crime Reduction and Community Safety Department has recently agreed to pay for this training countywide.
The force has also reviewed how it deals with spiking reports to monitor trends and ensure they are dealt with consistently across the county.
The force is also continuing with its public awareness campaigns with its Operation Advisory campaign around sexual consent and 16 days of action against domestic abuse.
Last year the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire secured more than £500,000 from Home Office funding for safety measures including improving lighting in underpasses in Hatfield.