Calls for more to be done to make Sheffield's streets safer after Sarah Everard’s murder

In the wake of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, calls have been made for more to be done to make Sheffield’s streets safer.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 1:55 pm

Sheffield-based movement Our Bodies Our Streets said there had been an 'overwhelming sense of fear', mostly from women and people from marginalised genders, even before the case of Ms Everard came to light.

Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, was kidnapped from the streets of London on March 3 and then raped and murdered by PC Wayne Couzens, who was a serving police officer with the Met at the time.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Our Bodies Our Streets

Her killer was served with a whole life order after being sentenced last week, meaning he is set to die behind bars.

As the country was still coming to terms with the murder, it was rocked again by another incident involving primary school teacher Sabina Nessa, who was killed while walking to meet a friend at a pub near her home in southeast London recently.

Our Bodies Our Streets’ community network officer Megan James said although the government has planned to allocate £45 million for neighbourhood safety measures, more still needs to be done.

She said: “Personally, I've seen that there is a sense of fear among women as these incidents could have happened to anyone.

OBOS Community Network Officer Megan James

“We all walk home around 8-9pm, so something needs to be done by the government because we are seeing this overwhelming sense of fear in the community.”

She said since the funding was announced, she has yet to see any kind of physical changes on the streets of Sheffield.

“Personally, I think it's not enough to throw money at the problem. Women need to be consulted in the process of determining where the money is going. It is not just as simple as putting more street lights in some parks.

“Sometimes, throwing money at the problem can be a quick solution to try to get the problem out of the way but I really think it's a systemic problem where we need a change in our society and behaviours.

“This is not just a women's problem, it is not just a men's problem, it's a society problem.”

Megan said the group will continue to campaign for safer streets and to 'not let this dialogue die down' until a real change takes place.

She also said that telling women what to do or wear will not 'solve the real problem', in response to a call by Scotland Yard for women to 'wave down a bus' if they don't trust a male officer.

“We are already telling women not to walk home alone, don't wear shorts or skirts, don't wear headphones and now we are telling women to hail down a bus?” she said.

“I think it's just another kind of constraint that we want to put on women. There's a problem in the police and that should be addressed.”

In the aftermath of Ms Everard's murder, police have come under fire for recommending that women flag down a passing bus if they have concerns when stopped by an officer.

Other suggestions, such as shouting to a passer-by, going to a house, knocking on a door, or dialling 999, were also heavily criticised.

South Yorkshire Police has appointed a specialist to tackle violence against women and girls in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard.

Natalie Shaw, who retired from South Yorkshire Police in 2019, returned to the force this week to lead the drive to reduce violence against women and girls on the streets of South Yorkshire and behind closed doors.

The former Chief Superintendent was the force lead for domestic abuse before she retired.

Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said ‘much more needs to be done’ to reduce violence against women’.

“Violence against women takes place in many guises and in many settings, behind closed doors at home and in full view in some public places. Here in South Yorkshire we have been listening to the voices of women about where they don’t feel safe, and understanding where interventions need to take place,” she said.

Commenting on the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s killer, the national chairman of the Police Federation, John Apter, said: “This predator is an absolute disgrace to the police service, and I am totally ashamed that he was ever a police officer.

“I am proud to carry a warrant card, but this vile individual’s abuse of that authority has cast a shadow on all those who work within policing. He has brought disgrace to our uniform.

“The way he took advantage of Sarah’s trust makes me feel sick to the stomach.”