Why a leading police officer is urging women to report street harassment

By reporting street harassment it could lead to safety investments being made in towns - a detective inspector has said

A police officer has told NationalWorld it is important to report catcalling if it has caused harm, distress or harassment.

Detective Inspector Liz Basham of Northamptonshire Police works in a team looking into rape and serious sexual offences - and has a strong interest in the discourse around street harrasment.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Although one incident of catcalling may not feel as though it’s important to report to some - she urges the public to trust in the police and let them know what happened.

Catcalling must be reported if it's leading to alarm, a police officer has said.

From here the force can decide if there are helpful lines of inquiry they can follow-up if victims have experienced a degrading or sexual slur or had a threatening comment shouted at them publicly.

By informing the police of an experience of street harassment - it may help to join the dots within their intelligence or build a bigger picture of that person committing the catcalling, if they are a repeat offender.

‘Where does it step over the line?’

“It’s such an important conversation and I’m so glad it’s one that’s being had at the moment,” she said.

DI Liz Basham is reassuring women that no police time is wasted reporting behaviour that has caused distress.

“I haven’t really told people about my experiences as it’s something we brush off day in day out and actually now we are saying ‘no, wait a minute, this isn’t right?’

“Where does it step over into that really dangerous, worrying contact?

“It links into abuse and criminal activity as well - there is a line where it becomes criminal.

"If it causes harassment, alarm and distress to the person who is receiving that behaviour then it’s an offence and we want to hear about it.”

‘We can see where the line of inquiry leads’

There is not one specific crime that street harassment is currently reported as.

Instead there’s the Public Order Act or harassment laws - which campaign groups like Our Streets are hoping to change so misogynistic crimes are known about in detail.

DI Basham added: "It’s even a conversation I’ve been having with my friends - and that’s how it starts by us all realising it’s an important discussion and hopefully that forces change.”

She gave the hypothetical scenario of a female walking home and being followed by a man engaging in sexualised conversation and she manages to find safety.

“If that’s not reported we wouldn’t find out about it and we wouldn’t be able to link it to the three or four times this person has done it previously,” she added.

“That person could continue this behaviour and it could escalate, so we are not learning about these dangerous people.

“We are not learning about vulnerable places and locations, places where this might happen time and time again - we need to know about that so we can put investment into that area with partner agencies to make it safer.

“If you’re feeling like it’s minor - or I don’t want to waste police time - well, actually, you can put the report in and we can make the decision on what lines of inquiry might come from it.”