A network of shops, bars, offices and public buildings in the city centre which are designated as ‘Safe Places’ for women and girls to seek help and support if they are concerned about their safety has been announced.
The initiative is part of the Safe Derby awareness campaign which aims to rally communities across the city to tackle, challenge and prevent violence against women and girls in public places.
It follows an original pilot scheme launched last year which highlighted neighbourhood libraries and other public buildings as Safe Places for young people and vulnerable adults to seek help and support.
Derby-based specialist child exploitation charity Safe and Sound, in partnership with Derby City Council, has organised the network of venues which will display a sticker highlighting that they are a safe place for women and girls to ask or help if they feel unsafe.
Staff within the venues will ensure the individual can contact someone if they wish to get home safely or just give them time to collect their thoughts. If the matter is more serious or a crime has been committed, they will be encouraged to contact the police.
Venues so far confirmed include Derbion and Derby Theatre, QUAD in the Market Place; Derby Museums; HUUB, Full Street; BEAR and Think3 in Iron Gate; McDonalds and HSBC bank in St Peter’s Street Staywell Café in St Mary’s Gate; Nadia Jane Performing Arts School, Green Lane; Palace bar on Green Lane; Sacred Bean Café, The Morledge; Community Action Derby, Shot Tower; Padley charity shops in East Street and Sadler Gate.
Safe and Sound CEO Tracy Harrison said: “Our aim through the network is for women and girls, or indeed anyone who feels vulnerable, to know that there are safe places for them to go day and night to if they feel worried, harassed or threatened.
“The businesses and venues so far confirmed have all embraced this initiative and we are providing safeguarding training for staff if they feel they need it.
“Otherwise, it is a very simple ‘community neighbour’ concept of ensuring that someone is OK and making sure they are able to get where they need to be safely.”
“It is particularly appropriate that we are launching Safe Places on March 18 which is also National Child Exploitation Awareness Day.
“The key message behind the day is that safeguarding is everyone’s business and encourages everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children or children exploiting and abusing their peers.”
Councillor Matthew Eyre, Cabinet Member for Place and Community Development said: “We are aiming to have at least one designated Safe Place on every street in the city centre with a focus on both the daytime and evening economies.
“This is a great step towards creating a safer city for everyone but particularly women and girls who are at greater risk of harassment and violence.
“I would encourage other venues and businesses to follow suit and contact us or Safe and Sound for advice and support to join the network.”
The initiative was welcomed by 16-year-old Amelia Roe who has been raising awareness of violence against women and girls with a series of workshops and self-defence sessions at her school in Derby.
She said: “In the workshops, we have all talked about how unsafe we feel walking home at night and many have said that they have felt intimidated and harassed by boys or even older men.
“There is an unspoken rule for us all that we can’t go out on our own or even at all after dark and that is not right.
“It can be scary walking through town to get a bus home – especially in the early evening – so knowing that there are places that you can go to ask for help or just to take a breather and get away from a situation is a great idea.”
Wes Brien, store manager of McDonalds in St Peter’s Street, said: “As a well known name on the high street and being open until 11pm, it makes sense for us to be involved.
“We do sometimes have young people coming in and asking for help if they feel threatened or unsafe so it is great to have this formalised through the Safe Places initiative.”
Nadia Jane Asamoah who owns Nadia Jane Performing Arts and the Palace bar in Green Lane added: “I would say that most women have felt unsafe or threatened at some point in their lives and it is a scary thing. It is important that we all stick together and I am particularly passionate that women should support women.
“I want people to know that they can come into us if they don’t feel safe and that they will get a warm welcome and whatever support they need. I think this is a brilliant project and I hope more venues in the city centre will sign up.”
David Tomlinson, director of HSBC in East Street continued: “HSBC are launching a similar scheme on a national basis called Safe Spaces so it is great that we are able to be part of a Derby-specific project which ties in well with our overall aim.
“We will be training staff on recognising signs and how to support people, including women and girls, who need help and support. We will also have a designated safe space in the branch where people can go for privacy and support.”
Safe Places has also been backed by the Board chairs of Derby’s Cathedral Quarter and St Peters Quarter Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) whose Rangers have also been briefed to signpost women and girls to venues if they require support.
Martin Langsdale ,Chair of Cathedral Quarter, said: “With our teams of BID Rangers throughout the city, we are only too aware of the importance of providing vigilance and safe havens in respect of this issue, and are pleased to be able to contribute to raising awareness and offering support.”
Helen Wathall, Chair of St Peters Quarter added: “We are delighted to be involved and encourage all our businesses to engage fully with this inspiring new commitment to making our city centre the safe place it should be.”
Adam Tamsett, general manager at Derbion, commented: “We’re committed to make our city centre the safe place that it should be, so are delighted to be involved in this incentive. The campaign will make an important difference and help create a safer city for vulnerable people within our community.”
The ‘Safe Derby’ Campaign is backed by the Home Office’s Safer Streets funding stream – secured by the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner.
It is jointly led by Derby City Council and other voluntary and community sector partners including local specialist child exploitation charity Safe and Sound, Derby County Community Trust and Derby Community Action.
The overarching objective of the campaign is to signal Derby’s zero tolerance towards, and promotion of a city free from, gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation.
A series of workshops, training, events and new initiatives have been organised as well as an extensive capital programme by Derby City Council to upgrade CCTV and lighting in hotspot areas.