Police in Bradford have pledged they are committed to keeping women safe and are ahead of the issues, taking proactive action in the city.
This comes at a time where there has been a focus nationally on women’s safety, off the back of the Reclaim the Streets protests.
Tackling violence against women and girls is a key priority for the West Yorkshire Mayor and is a cross-cutting theme in her Police and Crime Plan.
Bradford District Police has been conducting an operation in parts of the city to deter bad behaviour from taking place and build up an intelligence picture following some 3rd party reports of some females being harassed by drivers.
While there is no suggestion that such behaviour is at all widespread, and reports have been circumstantial, police have taken early action to reassure residents in the areas and nip any issues “in the bud” if instances are seen.
Bradford Police have been working with the University of Bradford and Bradford Council regarding the matter after taking some third-party reports from the university before Christmas about unwanted sexual comments being made to women in student areas.
Police mounted visible patrols in parts of the city at key times to provide reassurance but have also deployed plain-clothes officers in other deployments to get a better picture of what has been taking place.
Officers have worked closely with the University and trained up staff so they can raise concerns and submit intelligence to the partnership intel portal.
Bradford District itself is covered by a first-of-its-kind district-wide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) managed by Bradford Council which prohibits drivers from causing activity while in cars which can cause alarm, harassment or distress.
This is by no means an issue solely for Bradford but through the PSPO powers, Bradford has taken the initiative and is leading the way with this proactive operation.
Police will share knowledge and learn from the operation with other forces nationally.
Drivers seen engaging in such activity, ranging from dangerous driving offences to verbally harassing persons on the street could well face prosecution under the terms of the Protection Order.
In the last 6 months, eighteen operations have been carried out and 21 breaches for PSPOs have been given out 8 for antisocial driving and thirteen in relation to inappropriate behaviour towards women and girls, 19 vehicles have been seized, 72 traffic offences reported, and six people arrested.
Detective Superintendent Tanya Wilkins of Bradford District Police, said: “Bradford Police take all reports of violence against women and related offences such as harassment very seriously, and believes women should feel safe to walk our streets.
“At the end of last year officers were made aware of concerns expressed by female students of the behaviour of some drivers in the city which made them feel threatened and unsafe including harassment and unwanted comments made against them.
“As many of these reports were third-hand only, officers have been conducting patrols in identified student areas to gain a better understanding of any problems and build an intelligence picture of what is taking place.
“Uniformed reassurance patrols have been and will continue to remain ongoing in affected areas also.
“Harassment of women and girls in any way is unacceptable and we will look to utilise any necessary Police and Partnership powers to positively tackle any issues identified at an early stage.”
Alison Lowe, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “The safety of women and girls is a key priority for the Mayor and I, and we welcome this proactive partnership initiative.
“No one should have to face harassment or abuse when going about their daily lives and those who believe this behaviour is acceptable will hopefully feel the effects of this operation first hand.
“I welcome this focused activity and will be speaking further to West Yorkshire Police about how the learning and approach could benefit other areas in the county and beyond.”
Councillor Abdul Jabar, Bradford Council’s Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, said: “No woman or girl should feel unsafe or afraid to go out, so the work we are doing in partnership with the police and the University of Bradford is vital in putting a stop to the harassment and intimidation coming from a small number of people.
“We need to send out a strong message that this sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.”
Professor Udy Archibong, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Bradford: “Everyone has the right to feel safe and the University of Bradford works hard to create an environment where our students and staff feel respected, supported, and valued.
“Any reports of unacceptable behaviour are taken extremely seriously, and we are working in partnership with Bradford Council, Bradford Hate Crime Alliance and West Yorkshire Police to ensure the city and our campus remain places where everyone feels safe and welcome.
“The University’s Working Academy has been instrumental in developing a Hate Crime Web App that will enable people to report hate crimes and hate incidents directly from their mobile phones.”