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Woking’s Neighbourhood Team join forces with local community on Safer Streets project

Visitors to the Basingstoke Canal in Woking may have noticed a few changes to the area in recent weeks after Woking’s Safer Neighbourhood team joined forces with the local community to improve feelings of safety in the area.

The 13-mile stretch of canal running through Woking, a much-loved local beauty spot popular with dog-walkers and joggers, has been cleared of overgrown shrubbery and has seen the installation of new CCTV cameras which will cover the towpath.

The extra safety measures were put in place after a number of reports of indecent exposures and suspicious incidents, particularly against women and girls, which occurred along the canal path since 2019. In response to the reports, local neighbourhood officers commissioned an in-depth analysis of the area.

The analysis highlighted several geographical issues which were helping to facilitate the offences, including overgrown shrubbery which isolated some areas of the path and a lack of CCTV which meant that investigating the offences was difficult.

On top of this, evidence of crime in the area (such as graffiti and litter) was found to be contributing to some parts of the canal path feeling unsafe. This sentiment was reflected by some of the responses to our Call It Out Survey in 2021, in which some people reported feeling unsafe along the canal due to certain spots looking run-down.

In late 2021, Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend secured £175,000 worth of funding from the Home Office’s Safer Streets project to fund the work needed to tackle the issues along the canal.

Since then, with the help of Woking Borough Council and the Canal Authority, the Force has:

  • Begun to install new CCTV cameras to cover the length of the towpath
  • Invested in electronic bikes, allowing officers and volunteers from Canal Watch to patrol the path more effectively
  • Cut down overgrown shrubbery to improve visibility and allow more room for users of the canal to safely pass each other
  • Begun to remove graffiti along the canal, making the area a nicer place to be
  • Invested in signage which promotes early reporting of suspicious incidents, which is due to be installed in the coming weeks.
  • Part of the funding was also put towards promoting behaviour change among the community when it comes to violence against women and girls.

    To do this, the Force teamed up with Woking Football Club to promote Do the Right Thing, a campaign by Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner, which challenges bystanders to call out the misogynistic and harmful behaviour which allows violence against women and girls to continue.

    Visitors of the canal may notice the campaign on their coffee cup sleeves too, after local canal-boat coffee shop Kiwi and Scot also joined forces with Surrey Police to help tackle the issue.

    Sergeant Tris Cansell, who has been leading the project, said: “We feel very strongly that no one should ever be made to feel unsafe when they’re out enjoying their local area and we are committed to making this a reality across Woking, and particularly along the Basingstoke Canal.

    “We recognised that in order to achieve this, we needed to take a holistic approach to tackle the issues from all sides and I hope that residents, in particular women and girls, will feel reassured by the new measures in place.

    “I would also like to thank the Police and Crime Commissioner, Woking Borough Council, the Canal Authority, Woking Football Club and Kiwi and Scot for joining forces with us and helping to carry out this project. We are all totally united in our opposition to violence against women and girls, showing that offenders have no place in our community or beyond.”

    Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend said: “Ensuring we improve safety for women and girls in Surrey is one of the key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan so I am really pleased to see the progress that is being made in Woking thanks to the Safer Streets funding.

    “I first visited the area and met the local policing team during my first week as Commissioner and I know they have been working really hard with our partners to tackle those issues along the canal.

    “So it is fantastic to come back here a year later to see the huge effort that is going on to make this area safe for everyone to use. I hope that it will make a real difference to the community in this area.”

    To read more about the Safer Streets project, visit our website.

    You can view the Do the Right Thing campaign video and access further information about calling out violence against women and girls here. 

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    Megan Reilly
    (Police, Communications Officer, Surrey)

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