YOUNG women are at risk due to the number of “predatory” men in York city centre at weekends, front-line volunteers have claimed.
Volunteers from Street Angels, a group which helps people in vulnerable situations on Friday and Saturday nights, have identified a number of risks in a report to be presented to City of York Council tomorrow.
• Some drunk young women are vulnerable to “predatory” men in the city centre. During Freshers’ Week they noted an increase in the number of 30 to 40-year-old men in the centre. Street Angels stay with women they consider to be vulnerable. “We feel we have prevented a lot of rapes,” one volunteer said
•Drink spiking with extra shots of alcohol or drugs is “said to be a growing risk” to people in licensed premises. This has resulted in a number of younger females being abandoned in the street when people think they are drunk
• Glass should be banned from late night clubs and bars as there is a lot of broken glass in the city centre with the potential to cause injury. Street Angels give flip flops to women they see walking barefoot after taking their heels off.
Jennifer Locke, Street Angels coordinator, said the report to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is based on the perceptions and opinions of individual volunteers.
She said: “We do look after vulnerable girls and the question is if we were not there what would happen? We are not there to police the streets. We give feedback to the police and encourage people in a situation to report incidents to the police.
“Any girl that is drunk and is not in control is putting themselves in a vulnerable position, whether it’s having their phone stolen, physical abuse or harassment.”
North Yorkshire Police (NYP) said the information in the report was anecdotal and said “potential for exposure to harm faced by those who enjoy York’s night time economy remains one of the lowest for any city in the country”.
Superintendent Phil Cain, speaking on behalf of North Yorkshire Police and the Safer York Partnership, said:
"The potential for exposure to harm faced by those who enjoy York's night time economy remains one of the lowest for any city in the country.
It is always difficult to place a figure against the positive impact crime prevention initiatives have had towards the year-on-year reductions the city has enjoyed. While the Street Angels work is invaluable and has undoubtedly contributed to a safer city, it must be borne in mind that some of the information contained within the report is anecdotal.
“The success has been as a direct result of the strong partnership approach taken by all public authorities and volunteer sectors, one of which is The Street Angels project. I am confident that the work carried out by those from The Street Angels and other volunteer workers will continue to contribute to the wider efforts being undertaken by Safer York Partnership, North Yorkshire Police, the Health Service and local businesses.
“Safer York Partnership are working closely with the police and emergency department at York Hospital to develop an accurate profile of the harm caused by alcohol and how this relates to crime and anti-social behaviour. This work is being driven by the partnership’s AVANTE (Alcohol Violence And the Night Time Economy) task group and has resulted in a number of successful initiatives aimed at addressing the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption.
Jane Mowat, Head of Community Safety for City of York Council added: “A recent study of violent crime in York for the last 12 months compared to other similar night-time economy cities suggests that York has one of the lowest violent crime rates and this is directly attributable to the strong partnership approach being taken.”
Among many examples of how Street Angels volunteers have helped support people and emergency services are incidents when they assisted those who have had seizures and threatened to jump off bridges.
On one occasion they alerted emergency services to a man in his 40s who had discharged himself from Bootham Park Hospital who broke a bottle and tried to cut his own throat.
The night time economy review report also looked into alcohol-related antisocial behaviour in the city and admission to the emergency department at York Hospital due to alcohol.
An audit in 2011 found 9.8 per cent of all attendances to the emergency department were due to alcohol.
The report gives the example of a 29-year-old man who was admitted to York Hospital for drinking too much. He slept in a cubicle and had to be supervised by security before urinating all over the cubicle. He “finally left after five hours following an ambulance journey, multiple observations, a security presence and a blocked cubicle,” the emergency department at the hospital said.
City of York Council said plans are underway to make sure people are safe on nights out with a review of the positioning of cameras and a survey of retailers and food and drink outlets.
It is looking at the possibility of extending the Cumulative Impact Zone (CIZ) – which gives the force more powers to oppose plans for new licensed premises and applications for longer opening hours – to include the Back Swinegate area, into the Goodramgate and Fossgate areas and the frontage of Spurriergate.
Feedback will be presented in spring 2014 alongside the results of consultation on the proposed late night levy to ask bars, clubs and restaurants open late to help pay for policing and street cleaning.