Community project to improve safety for women and girls in Woking scoops national award

A community project backed by Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner to improve safety for women and girls in Woking has won a prestigious national award.

The initiative, which was centred around a stretch of the Basingstoke Canal in the town, claimed the overall Tilley Award at a ceremony on Tuesday night as part of the National Problem-Solving Conference.

Commissioner Lisa Townsend’s office secured £175,000 from the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund to improve security measures along the 13-mile canal path following a number of reports of indecent exposure in the area since 2019.

The grant was spent on a series of significant changes in the area. Overgrown trees and bushes were cleared, while new CCTV cameras covering the towpath were installed.

Graffiti was removed after some respondents to Surrey Police’s Call It Out Survey 2021 said they felt unsafe because certain spots looked run-down.

Officers from Woking’s Neighbourhood Policing Team and volunteers from the local Canal Watch group, which was set up thanks to funding from the Commissioner’s office, were also given electric bikes to patrol the path more effectively.

In addition, the Force teamed up with Woking Football Club to promote Do The Right Thing, a campaign which challenges bystanders to call out misogynistic and harmful behaviour against women and girls.

The project was one of five across the country to secure a Tilley Award in September, claiming victory in the ‘Business Support and Volunteers’ category.

The other category winners included a second Surrey scheme funded by the Commissioner’s office to tackle catalytic converter thefts in the county. Operation Blink, which was supported by a £13,500 grant from the office’s Community Safety Fund, resulted in 13 arrests being made and reports of catalytic converter thefts dropping by 71 per cent across Surrey.

The winners of all five categories presented their projects to a panel of judges this week and the Woking project was chosen as the overall winner. It will now be put forward for an international award.

Commissioner Lisa Townsend said: “I’m absolutely delighted that all the hard work put in by both our amazing local policing team and everyone involved in this project has been recognised with this fantastic award.

“It makes me incredibly proud to see the funding my office was able to secure make a real difference to the local community and ensure it is a much safer place, particularly for women and girls.

“I first visited the area and met the local team during my first week as Commissioner, and I know the huge effort that has gone in to tackling these issues along the canal so I’m thrilled to see that paying dividends.

“One of the key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan is to work with Surrey communities so they feel safe. I am absolutely dedicated not only to hearing residents’ concerns, but acting on them.”

Deputy Commissioner Ellie Vesey-Thompson, who attended the ceremony on Tuesday night, said: “It was fantastic to see the team take home the award for such a vital project.

“Schemes like this can make a huge difference to how safe people in our communities feel here in Surrey. It’s a huge achievement for the Force, and a reflection of the hard work and dedication of all of those involved.”

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable for Local Policing Alison Barlow said: “Winning this year’s overall Tilley Award for our project to make the Basingstoke Canal in Woking a safer place for all who use it – especially for women and girls – is a huge achievement.

“This is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of everyone involved, and shows the true power of local policing teams working in partnership with the community. We are also grateful for the support of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in this winning project.

“We are proud to be a problem solving force with a determination to continue to build on what we have already achieved to make sure our communities are safe and feel safer. We are firm in the commitments we made to the Surrey public to spot problems early, act promptly, and avoid quick fixes that don’t last.”

To learn more about the Safer Streets project in Woking, read Safer Streets funding to improve safety for women and girls in Woking.

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