The leader of Portsmouth’s Labour group is urging the city council to extend its safe spaces scheme after parents and young people said they feared for their safety in the city.
Cllr Charlotte Gerada, who represents Central Southsea ward, has proposed a motion to go before the full council on Tuesday (March 14) calling for the scheme to be strengthened and widened to help young people feel safer.
She said she had heard from parents who had raised particular concerns about their children’s safety to and from school, as this was a prime time that criminal gangs target young people to get involved in county lines, where children are used by drug gangs.
She said: “Some parents and young people have told us they worry about these issues such as drugs, county lines and antisocial behaviour and their fear of these crimes makes them feel unsafe in some public places.
“Evidence suggests that Portsmouth is generally a safe city for young people. However, we know that recorded crime, actual crime, and fear of crime are different. The fear of crime can make areas that should feel safe and accessible, inaccessible.
“I have been working with parents and local youth organisations to explore an extension and improvement to safe spaces for young people in Portsmouth and to promote existing council schemes that offer support to young people.”
The current scheme provides a network of support for people at risk of exploitation, harassment or sexual violence, offering safe spaces for young people including schools, police stations, the multi-agency safeguarding hub, youth centres, play centres and businesses.
Cllr Gerada, whose motion has been seconded by Liberal Democrat councillor Suzy Horton, wants everyone to feel safe in the city no matter their background, age, ability or location.
Cllr Gerada said: “We want the council to do all it can to improve public safety, tackle crime and give every person the best possible chance of not just surviving, but thriving in Portsmouth.”
The proposal calls for a series of measures including promoting the existing safe spaces scheme, offering extra support for schools to speak to young people in an age-appropriate way about keeping safe when out in the community, and for the council to review its existing schemes to increase public safety for young people and explore if further improvements can be made.
Cllr Gerada said the council needed to make sure it was actively engaging with young people in the city to give them a voice in the development of any new measures.
“It is so important that we listen to the fears of parents and young people in Portsmouth and to reassure them that we are doing all we can to help allay those fears and make them feel safer on our streets”, she added.