The Walk and Talk initiative is part of Central South’s proactive response to address local concerns about violence against women and girls (VAWG). These have became ever more prevalent following the shocking abduction and murder of Sarah Everard from our BCU, and wider concern about violence towards women, harassment and misogyny.
The idea is simple: Local women, going for a walk with female officers in their neighbourhood. The opportunity is to talk to female members of the community about their experiences, concerns and suggestions on how they can make them feel safer.
The initial idea arose following conversations with Ch Supt Colin Wingrove, Central South’s BCU Commander and HeForShe champion, members of the Forward Institute, and Acting Inspector Becky Perkins. Becky, as the local Chair for NoW (Network of Women) and Acting Inspector Sam Honeyball have collectively led the initiative.
Becky Perkins and Sam Honeyball set about pairing a female dedicated ward officer (DWO) with a female member of the public, living or working on or near the officer’s ward. Officers then contacted their “buddy” to arrange a time to meet for a minimum of 30 minutes. Becky encouraged them to meet in a Park or open space but reiterated they are to be flexible and also consider walking the female’s route to work or to a transport hub. She wanted the walks to mainly occur early in the morning or late evening as felt these may be times when women feel more vulnerable due to less traffic, footfall and lighting.
Walk and Talk focuses on encouraging transparent, open and constructive conversations between officers and their buddy. Becky, Sam and Mr Wingrove wanted to explore any trends and themes in concerns about safety and what they, and/or our partners can do to improve the safety of our areas for women. This should highlight any concerns raised and any ideas regarding improvements. Becky has made it clear that they cannot commit to making all suggested changes, but they’re keen to recommend changes to partnership agencies where appropriate and of course look to improve anything they’re are doing.
Becky has provided a briefing note to all officers taking part and actively encouraged conversations about their own experiences and thoughts, even if these verge on being difficult or emotive. She further explained that if intelligence or crimes are alleged, they need to be clear that they have a duty of care and therefore will be reported in the usual manner, ensuring any safeguarding and signposting is completed.
In order to evaluate Walk and Talk, and capture concerns, both the officer and the member of public were asked to complete a survey with some reflective questions. These included things such as: What the experience was like? Would you recommend this to others? Would you like to take part in this or similar initiatives in the future? If you were to do this again, is there anything which should be done differently? Information captured has already supported a recent Police & Council bid for Safer Streets funding to improve lighting and CCTV.
So far over 30 members of public have had the opportunity to Walk and Talk and we hope to continue pairing interested parties with an emphasis of reaching out to all areas and backgrounds of our community. There is considerable amount of work to be done and the scheme has significant longevity and we will continue through the Winter and beyond. We want to capture a picture which truly represents the concerns and reflections all of female community and work towards making London a safer environment for everyone.
If you are interested in taking part in the Walk and Talk initiative, please send an email to NetworkofWomenNoW@met.police.uk including your name, contact information and where on the borough you live/work.