Councillor Claire Rowles, who represents West Berkshire Council’s (WBC) Hungerford and Kintbury Ward, was appointed as the first Safer Street Champion, at the Annual meeting of WBC in May 2021
The Safer Streets Champion will “work with West Berkshire’s communities to understand their concerns about street harassment and receive suggestions on how the issue should be addressed.” The term “street harassment” covers harassment in public areas including streets, shopping centres, public open spaces and public transport. It can involve sexual harassment, including unwanted sexualised comments, provocative gestures or being subjected to indecent exposure or touching by strangers.
West Berkshire Council took the decision to create the Safer Streets Champion role in response to the spotlight on street harassment following the murder of Sarah Everard in Clapham in March 2021. West Berkshire has a low rate of violent and sexual crime, below the national and regional average, but WBC “wants people to feel safe, as well as be safe, whenever they go out.”
Claire Rowles is a qualified lawyer and feels that her understanding of the criminal justice system and police powers will help her in this new role. “Street harassment is an issue that many people have experienced,” she said. “It predominantly affect women – I know personally what it is like to be harassed on the street and the anxiety of not being able to walk alone without concern for my safety. I am fully committed to working in partnership with the appropriate bodies to ensure that West Berkshire Council continues to be safe place for everyone.”
As the Safer Streets Champion, Claire Rowles’ responsibilities will include:
- Working in partnership with Thames Valley Police to explore a potential bid for Safer Streets grant funding.
- Working closely with the Public Protection Partnership, Thames Valley Police, Town Centre managers and others to challenge and rid the district of street harassment.
- Working with local MPs Laura Farris, Alok Sharma and John Redwood to seek further powers for the Police to be able to take appropriate action where street harassment is witnessed or reported.
“The Government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce has said that it will introduce immediate steps to tackle street harassment, following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard and West Berkshire Council welcomes this action,” WBC leader Lynne Doherty said after Councillor Rowles’ appointment. “By creating the Safer Streets Champion role, we feel we are working to address street harassment and provide more reassurance to residents, particularly those who are female, and that we are making every effort to ensure that they are safe on our streets. Claire sits on the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel and the Council has every confidence that she will make an exceptional Safer Streets Champion.”
You can contact Claire Rowles by email on Claire.Rowles1@westberks.gov.uk.
• Click here to read Councillor Claire Rowles’ interview with Penny Post.