Sarah Everard: a helpline, online map and Walk and Talk - the safety schemes started to make a difference

Sarah Everard’s murder has seen action taken by the authorities as well as volunteers to try and help people feel safer

Since the murder of Sarah Everard, various initiatives have started in a bid to help women feel safer.

These include a helpline which had its beginnings at a vigil in memory of the 33-year-old to an online tool which lets people anonymously identify areas where they don’t feel safe.

A proposal was also made by BT for a dedicated 888 Walk Me Home service.

While the Met Police announced measures such as a Walk and Talk patrol - as the force works to try and regain trust after Miss Everard’s murder by serving officer Wayne Couzens.

So what has been introduced and are there plans for other schemes?

Since Sarah Everard’s murder various initiatives have started in a bid to help women feel safer.

What is Strut Safe?

Founded by Rachel Chung and Alice Jackson, Strut Safe offers a helpline which covers the entire UK. The service also offers free walks home in Edinburgh.

It was the murder of Sarah Everard which prompted the pair to start the service.

Alice said: “We actually attended a vigil for Sarah here in Edinburgh, which is where we’re both based.

“Rachel basically got up at this at this vigil on the bullhorn and just said, Look, if anyone needs to walk home, I will make sure you get home safely, I’ll come and get you, get you a cab, whatever you need.

“And we just wanted to make good on that, on that promise really for our community. Now we operate across the UK. It’s grown more than we ever imagined. We only imagined that we would operate locally, but now we just serve a much bigger community.”

Strut Safe volunteer group has launched to walk people home who feel vulnerable and not able to walk alone late at night

The helpline, which is free to call, operates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

There are around 50 volunteers working on Strut Safe, explaining how it works when calls come in, Alice said: “A volunteer will answer the phone, and will stay on the phone with you while you walk home.

“And that can be whatever you need, it can be reassurance that can be a friendly chat, it can be support and resources, and we train our dispatchers to be able to handle whatever really comes in.”

Alice said while numbers of people using the line vary, they have seen increases.

She said: “It really varies in terms of you know, when we get spikes and stuff, we will see a big spike after unfortunately, something tragic happens.

“When we first started it was not that many and now it’s so many. It fluctuates, but more than we ever imagined.”

She also said that although they mainly get calls from women, the line is open to everyone.

She added: “One of our founding principles was that anyone can call the line we say that you know as much as we can on socials and stuff that we are there for whoever needs help.”

The Strut Safe helpline can be contacted on 0333 335 0026.

The group also organised a rally to remember Ms Everard, and other women killed by men, outside Holyrood on Thursday evening (4 March.)

Politicians including SNP MP Hannah Bardell and Labour MSPs Monica Lennon and Pauline McNeill were due to speak at the event, as well as Rape Crisis Scotland chief Sandy Brindley

Ms Jackson said Ms Everard’s murder in March 2021 “exposed the gravity of the situation in terms of how much misogyny there is in our culture, the brutality of misogynistic violence that many of us are constantly threatened by and suffer”

What happened to the plans for the 888 service?

Proposals for an 888 Walk Me Home service are still being developed, despite hopes it would be up and running by the end of last year.

In October, BT set out plans for the service where women could have their journeys tracked and an alert triggered if they do not reach home in time.

Before walking the user would start the app, or call or text 888, which would give the expected journey time and complete tracking via GPS.

A message would be sent to the user at the time they were predicted to arrive home and a failure to respond would issue calls to emergency contacts and then the police.

The firm’s chief executive Philip Jansen said the idea came after the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.

At the time, the Home Office confirmed it had received a letter from Mr Jansen proposing the emergency number and would respond in “due course”.

It had been reported the new service could cost around £50 million, and could be in operation by Christmas.

However, BT’s technical development teams are working on developing proposals and the firm says it will continue to discuss it with the Home Office.

The firm says it intends for it to be a collaborative effort between the Government, telecommunications industry, key stakeholders such as the police and Ofcom and, campaign groups.

Writing in the Daily Mail last year Mr Jansen said: “There is a growing anger and desperation to take action. As CEO of BT, I am in a position to do something practical. I have been thinking about how we can use technology to tackle the problem.

“So, together with my BT colleagues, I have come up with something that I believe can help.”

What is the StreetSafe tool about?

The online tool is currently being trialled by the Government as part of its response to tackling violence against women and girls.

It allows people to anonymously identify on a map locations where they don’t feel safe.

It is available on the Police UK website.

Areas that have issues with street lighting, abandoned buildings, vandalism and places where people have encountered concerning behaviour, such as being followed or verbal abuse can be pinpointed on the map.

However, StreetSafe is not for reporting crime or incidents, those should continue to be reported the usual way though 101 or 999.

The Met Police are launching the walk and talk patrol on 8 March.

What is Walk and Talk?

The Metropolitan Police is launching an initiative where women can raise concerns to officers in a bid to improve safety and rebuild public trust.

Walk and Talk is being rolled out across London on International Women’s Day on 8 March and will see members of the public go out on patrol with officers and point out areas where they feel vulnerable.

It was first started by a police officer in south London’s Lambeth after Sarah Everard’s murder.

Commander Rachel Williams, said: “All women and girls have the right to feel safe, at any time, day or night, in public or at home, and we are doing everything we can to improve safety.

“We appreciate and acknowledge public concern and anger, and the desire for action to be taken which keeps women and girls safe – and we agree. The Walk and Talk initiative is just one of the many things going on across London to crack down on violence against women and girls.”

The initial idea for the scheme came from Inspector Becky Perkins from the Central South neighbourhoods team.

She said: “We know there are many women out there who don’t feel completely safe walking London’s streets and we want those women to know we are here for you, we are listening and we are doing all we can to make the streets safer.”

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