Thursday, January 15, 2015

News: Young people share Rotherham town centre safety fears

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More of Rotherham's young people say they are visiting the town centre regularly but more work needs to be done to address negative perceptions and safety fears.

The findings of a recent survey carried out in the borough's schools found that more young people said they visited Rotherham town centre regularly (at least once a week), up to 40% from 34% in 2013, but only 10% of young people said they felt safe in the town centre, reduced from 12% in 2013.

The 2014 Borough Wide Lifestyle Survey has been carried out since 2006 and this year saw 4,123 pupils take part from 16 schools. It is considered a valuable tool by the Council, helping to provide an idea of what young people understand and can enable the council to tailor services towards young people. Issues covered include food and drink, education, sexual health, bullying and safety.

Regarding the town centre, the survey showed that overwhelmingly, the main reason that young people go into the town centre is for shopping (71% of year 7 pupils and 62% of year 10). Meeting friends (around 30%) was the second most popular answer and watching football and visiting the park also stood out.

With such a low percentage of respondents saying that they felt safe in Rotherham town centre, further questions were added to the survey this year.

Only 10% of pupils said they usually feel safe in Rotherham town centre. 9% said they feel safe at the bus station and 7% at the train station. Last year this was phrased "waiting for local transport" where just 14% said that they felt safe.

Pupils who said that they didn't feel safe were also asked what their top three reasons were for this. The main reasons why pupils didn't feel safe in the town centre, bus interchange or train station were being approached by strangers (26%), gang fear (18%) and being approached by drunks (15%). 14% of pupils also said that there was a lack of visible security such as a police officer or a warden.

Interestingly, of the 40% who said that they regularly go into the town centre, a higher percentage said they felt safe compared to those that said they were not regular visitors - 15% said they felt safe there compared to 7% of the 60% who are not regular visitors. The council and partners believe that this is further evidence that there is work to be done with young people on the perception of safety in and around town centre.

Crime statistics support this, crime rates from town centre for overall crime have declined. Total reported crime for area in the last 12 months was 2,613, down from 2,674 in the previous 12 months. Recorded incidents of antisocial behaivour across the borough are at a five year low.

The results of the survey were discussed at the Council's cabinet meeting this week with members agreeing that whilst it was encouraging that more young people are visiting the town centre regularly, more work needs to be done on addressing young people's perception of safety. Council boards are set to meet on the issues raised in the survey and following last year's results the town's Youth Cabinet established a group specifically to discuss the town centre.

Plans alongside the Police safer neighbourhood teams and the SYPTE, who operate the interchange, include actions targeting crime and anti social behaviour in the bus station.

Operation Civilise is a recent initiative that sees a large police presence in Rotherham town centre to provide reassurance and to deter crime. A business crime portal is also being used to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in the town centre by giving business owners the knowledge of known or unknown offenders.

Images: RMBC

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