Call for Night Patrols and Street Lights To Be Undimmed

Councillors react to public safety concerns in the local community

Rocks Lane Centre, Chiswick Common


Bid To Undim Street Lights In Crime 'Hotspot' Areas Fails

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Opposition councillors have written to the leader of Hounslow Council and the head of the borough’s police force asking for more to be done to increase public safety particularly at night.

The calls come in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard and increased concerns about public safety particularly for women.

The Conservative councillors have contacted Cllr Steve Curran and cabinet member Cllr Katherine Dunne asking them to restore street lighting to 100 per cent across the borough to improve safety for everyone at night.

Council introduced 'dimming and trimming' which is the reduction in intensity and hours of operation of street lights as a cost saving measure in 2018. It said at the time this was done with the agreement of local police teams.

The councillors have also written to the head of the borough's police force, Chief Superintendent Peter Gardner, reiterating their recommendations for increased night time policing and the reintroduction of special constables to rebuild confidence in being out at night.

They argue that the extra cost of increasing the intensity of street lights at night time could be offset by councillors postponing the recent increase in Special Responsibility Allowances they awarded themselves.

The request was made several times in the Chiswick Shops Task Force report “Ensuring a Thriving Retail Economy in Chiswick”, published in July 2020, and it was raised in the two public meetings on crime and policing in Chiswick, organised by Chiswick Conservative councillors in 2018 and 2019.

“When the police attended our second public meeting on crime and policing in Chiswick, we were told that improved lighting is an obvious and easy to implement deterrent to crime,” said Cllr Ranjit Gill, Conservative spokesman on crime and policing who represents Turnham Green ward.

"As a response to muggings that had taken place on or near Chiswick Common, the Rocks Lane team suggested they turn their lighting round at night so it shone on Chiswick Common and its paths and beyond. That was a generous and common sense response,” said Cllr Gill.

Family business Elias & Grandsons on Chiswick Common Road, at the top of Turnham Green Terrace, is among shops in the area that keep their lights on overnight, to keep the shop visible but also to make its community feel as safe as possible.

Fano Stavrou, who helps his son Elia, the business owner, with the store, said, “Off the corner of the terrace it’s very dingy at night, it’s almost zero lights over it, the trees overpower the parade.

“It’s notorious for bike crime, they smash into people’s cars and race off. It’s an easy hit for them.”

The 56-year-old said the business has been keeping the lights on for the last three or four years especially as a way to deter street crime, and knows some of his neighbouring businesses also light up their shops.

He added: “The main thing is Chiswick has got a lot of single people who live in bedsits and stuff like that, people can be vulnerable on the streets at night especially in Chiswick Common…

“Streets have to be lit up to full rate. It certainly won’t do that much harm from a confidence point of view, it will allow people, especially with girls vulnerable out of the streets, it’s important at least the streets should be lit.”

Cllr Gill added, “My councillor colleagues Patrick Barr, Joanna Biddolph and Gabriella Giles made several important points in their retail report including the need to increase night time policing patrols which could be provided by special constables. Those recommendations were welcomed by the Chiswick police team. We have asked them to act on this urgently.

"After our first public meeting, when a teenager described how he had reacted to a mugging - by running to safety as fast as he could - he noted that his younger brother would not have had the same strength or speed and the outcome could have been very different. We followed up by meeting a group of Chiswick parents to discuss options including a safe havens scheme. We would like to revive that suggestion. It would be relatively easy to do in roads or areas where there are late night shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels and bars but it is harder in areas that are almost exclusively residential with nothing open late at night. By continuing the discussion with parents plus the police and organisers of safe havens schemes we hope we can devise a scheme that works not only for teenagers but for anyone who feels at risk or in danger and not just in Chiswick but also borough wide”.

Cllr Gabriella Giles who represents Chiswick Riverside said, “It can be intimidating walking home from public transport links and after evenings out enjoying the borough's many cultural experiences. On these routes, we can’t rely on the goodwill of shops to light pavements, paths and roads. It’s for the council to provide well-lit routes to reduce risks and improve safety at night. One of the reasons why I prefer to cycle in the evening is because it is quicker than walking, and I am vitally aware how poor lighting makes cycling more dangerous.”

Cllr Patrick Barr pointed out that many health care workers return home late at night and would benefit from better lighting.

We asked Hounslow Council for a response but did not receive a reply.

At the same time Brentford & Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury was voting against the government’s new police, crime, sentencing and courts Bill. She said, “Over the past week we’ve heard a countless number of stories about the acts of harassment, stalking and assaults on women- yet this bill doesn’t even mention women and fails to protect victims, particularly women and children, nor does it adequately punish offenders.

“On top of that this bill will introduce a prison sentence of 10 years for attacking a statue- which is double the minimum sentence for committing rape.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has admitted that the capital’s streets are not safe for women and girls in the wake of Sarah Everard’s disappearance.

Speaking to LBC Radio last week said that men, especially those in positions of power, must take steps to address the issues facing women in the city.

Asked whether London’s streets were safe for women, Mr Khan said: “No they aren’t, or for girls – and it’s really important that people of my gender understand that.

“If you’re a woman or a girl, your experiences of our city, in any public space, whether it’s in the workplace, on the streets, on public transport is very different to if you are a man or a boy.

“And it’s really important that people like me in positions of power and influence understand that and take steps to address that.”

He added, “It can’t be right that if you’re a woman or girl, you’re having to work out which routes are better lit than those that aren’t, which shops and places are open you can duck into if you’re scared for your safety, and having to change the footwear and clothes you wear because you’re worried about actions from men or boys.”

But Mr Khan has come under criticism from his Conservative rival in the upcoming election Shaun Bailey, who said that making London safe is “the first thing he should be doing”.

Mr Bailey said, “He’s sat in front of us with a straight face and said that ‘London is no longer safe for women.’ That’s a failure on his part, that’s his job 101, the first thing he should be doing is making London safe for everyone.”

At a campaign event last week, Mr Bailey hit out at Sadiq Khan’s record on crime and said that the mayor has “the budget, the tools and the duty to bring down crime in London”.

But the Metropolitan Police is under intense scrutiny and is facing a probe from the police watchdog after it emerged a serving Met officer, arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to Sarah Everard’s disappearance, was allowed to remain on duty after being accused of indecent exposure just days before Sarah’s disappearance.

Written with contributions from Joe Talora - Local Democracy Reporter

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March 22, 2019

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