Safer nights in Epsom in sights

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s (EEBC) Environment and Safe Communities Committee approved the allocation of a grant for plans to improve safety in the area. – Tuesday 18 October -. In a bid that resulted in a £271,712 grant from the Home Office Safer Streets programme, the council put forward a range of initiatives to promote safety within Epsom’s night time economy.

In conjunction with the Safer Streets bid, a ‘Night Time Safety’ survey, specific to Epsom town centre, was created. Only 30% of those who responded said they felt safe in the town centre at night, and only 18% of respondents said they felt safe within Epsom’s nightclubs. The bid also cited a rise in spiking in the borough, with two anecdotal reports of spiking in 2019 and 2020, and nine reported crimes involving spiking in 2021.

Councillors at the committee meeting approved a decision to spend £172,512 of the grant on replacing sixteen CCTV cameras in Epsom, which, according to the bid, were outdated and expensive to run. The monitoring costs of the sixteen cameras will be funded by the Epsom BID (known as “Go Epsom“). The cameras are currently monitored by Surrey Police, but EEBC has said that they will now be monitored locally.

The bid states that ‘The CCTV will be monitored during busy weekend periods via 24-hour security based in the shopping centre. Security will be able to speak directly to the police to prevent late night incidents occurring or escalating, feedback live information and protect those who appear vulnerable. The CCTV will also be available for investigation purposes.’

Councillors also approved the decommissioning of four CCTV cameras in Ewell and Stoneleigh, after officers found that it was ‘unlikely’ that the cameras were being used enough to meet an identified pressing need, as set out under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

The funding of accredited training for staff at Epsom’s licensed premises was deemed an ‘essential part’ of the Safer Streets bid, which cites ‘a lack of training and awareness with licenced premises and their staff around VAWG [Violence Against Women and Girls], including drink spiking and identifying vulnerabilities.’ The bid also states that there is a lack of nonauthoritarian guardians available at night time, and that police are often unable to assist vulnerable people while also addressing offences.

One respondent to the Night Time Safety survey said: ‘There’s not always someone nearby or a close location I can trust’. Part of the funding will go towards training and uniform for Street Pastors, an existing group of volunteers from local congregations who offer support to those who are out in the evening. However, they do not feel comfortable being out in the early hours of the morning, and incidents of violence peak between 3am and 4am. Therefore, the bid also suggests supplementing the Street Pastors scheme with a ‘Night Angels’ initiative, which, being open to a wider demographic of volunteers, might increase the number of people available to offer support during the night.

Councillors also approved plans to provide drink testing and anti-spiking kits at licensed premises.

A communications package will be used to disseminate information about the improvements through advertising and social media.

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