Cracking down on crime and making Leeds’s streets as safe as they can be is still a top priority for residents, the YEP can today reveal.
Almost two thirds of people who took part in our Big Cities survey have said that they avoid certain areas of the city out of fear of being a victim of crime.
And more than half of the responses showed people think crime in the city is “a major issue”.
Today the YEP is putting crime into focus, by taking a deeper look at safety and what matters to you – as part of our survey series that launched this week.
As reported on Tuesday, 45 per cent of people surveyed by this newspaper chose policing as one of the top areas in Leeds that they wanted to see increased spending.
For one service in Leeds, the struggle that victims of crime in the city go through is all to familiar.
Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL) was set up to provide free and confidential help to women and girls across Leeds whose lives have been affected by sexual violence.
Catriona Palin, who works at SARSVL, said the service had seen a rise in the number of victims coming forward.
“There has been a rise since there has been more awareness and campaigns nationally,” she told the YEP.
“Which is why we are seeing more people coming forward. Everybody is different and people come to us from all backgrounds and all types of situations.
“But these crimes can have a massive impact on their lives.”
She said the service frequently deals with women who are dealing with anxiety and depression.
“We have victims who are self harming and some who have attempted to take their own lives because of being victims of crime,” she said.
“Maybe when they get to us they haven’t told anyone before about what’s happened to them and there is a stigma with rape – so there is the ‘double whammy’ for some people, of being a victim and feeling in some way to blame.”
From starting out small five years ago with just a helpline, SARSVL now deals with thousands of calls and has several full-time staff.
Its free helpline received 2,477 calls last year, and its counselling service, which launched in 2016, has had 264 referrals so far in 2017.
More than half of those surveyed by the YEP revealed that they, or someone they knew, had been a victim of crime over the last 12 months.
Also among our results, 56 per cent of people said they didn’t think police officers have a “high profile” across Leeds, meaning they want to see more on the beat.
But 40 per cent of those who took part said they felt safe when out and about in the city, compared to one quarter who didn’t.
Ms Palin said seeing police on the street could help people feel safer.
Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander, said: “We never underestimate the impact that crime and anti-social behaviour can have on people’s feelings of safety in our communities, and there will always be more we can do to keep people safe.”
“We recognise that Leeds, like many major cities in the country, has areas of significant social deprivation and other challenges that play a part in the level of crime we see. We continue to work hard alongside our partner agencies to tackle the issues, prioritising those that present the greatest risk of harm to the public.
“I understand how important it is to our communities to have locally-based officers who are visible and accessible and work with partners to tackle the issues that matter most to them.
“We remain firmly committed to providing this vital service through our neighbourhood policing teams.”
For support from SARSVL, contact its helpline on 08088023344 or visit the website at www.supportafterrapeleeds.org.uk
West Yorkshire Police chiefs warn of ‘increasing and complex demand’ facing force
Police chiefs have today warned that cuts to force budgets have had consequences, as officers fight to respond to an “increasingly complex demand”.
The latest YEP Big Cities survey results this week revealed that people in Leeds want to see increased spending on policing, and a more visible presence of officers out on the streets.
Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander, has hailed “very significant” successes in tackling serious crime in Leeds over the last year, including organised supply of drugs and gun crime.
He said the latest ‘Your Views’ survey, by the Office of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, showed 85 per cent of people felt safe in their local area.
Ch Supt Money said: “This is all in the context of severe austerity measures which have significantly reduced police budgets and the number of officers we have available to respond to increasingly complex demand, which is an ongoing challenge that everyone is aware of.”
West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, echoed his concerns over demand.
He said: “I will continue to urge the Government to give us the resources we need to help make sure our communities remain safe with officers visible in our communities, properly equipped, where the public want them.
“I continue to protect and prioritise neighbourhood policing as our police officers and PCSO’s do a vital job in keeping us safe, but more resources are also needed to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities such as missing people and those at risk of abuse, and tackling threats such as cyber crime and terrorism.”