Assault victim demands more lights for safer streets

Colm Murphy 28 October 2014

A victim of one of the recent sexual assaults in Cambridge has called for more street lighting in Cambridge’s green spaces and parks.

Talking to the Cambridge News, the victim said,  “The parks are not well-lit enough. If you are walking home from work at 5pm it’s completely pitch black. Public safety is being dismissed and our security has been jeopardised.”

The victim was assaulted on Friday 17th October and was one of three separate attacks that occurred that night.

Amelia Horgan, Women’s Officer for CUSU, strongly agreed with the victim’s statement, saying: “With regards to lighting, Cambridge is a really poorly-lit city and it can often feel that the council prioritises creating a historic old-time-y atmosphere over ensuring all residents feel safe. It took years to get lights on Parkers' Piece and we would like to see more being done, and a clear commitment from the Council to ensuring all people feel safe walking home at night.”

The victim’s concerns have also been echoed by a local city councillor, Daniel Ratcliffe. Speaking to The Cambridge Student, he said "One of these attacks is one too many, and despite Cambridge being a relatively low crime area, this recent spate of assaults is worrying." He called on the County Council to "do better" with street lighting and visible policing. However, in the meantime, he advised students "to stick to the better-lit paths where possible and to remain vigilant."

A spokesperson for the Cambridgeshire police force reinforced Mr Ratcliffe’s advice, stating that "We would urge people to take general safety precautions such as walking in groups late at night and keeping to well-lit areas."

When contacted by TCS, Alan Hitch, Strategic Projects Manager at Cambridgeshire County Council said: “Cambridgeshire County Council has to reduce the amount of energy it uses on street lights to help balance its budget. This will include turning off some street lights for part of the night in residential areas.

“However, we can reassure local people that we will continue to keep lights on overnight in town and city centres and areas with a higher risk of crime and places of risk like remote alley ways where they confirmed by the police.”

On the evening of Friday 17th October three women were assaulted separately in Cambridge. The attacks are reported to have taken place near the Grand Arcade, Mill Road and Jesus Green. Detectives are currently keeping an open mind, and have not ruled out the possibility that these three attacks may have been linked. They are also open to the possibility that more than one individual may have been involved. Furthermore, the sexual assault of a man by three men took place in the early hours of Sunday 26th October. The incident is thought to have taken place between 2am and 5am on Christ’s Pieces, which was subsequently cordoned off.

Amelia Horgan added: “While Cambridge is a relatively safe city, sexual violence and attacks perpetrated by strangers do happen. If any student has been affected and would like to contact me they can do so confidentially, and I can provide information about counselling and other services.”

A petition has subsequently been set up on calling for better lighting in Cambridge parks and green space.

These cases come after it was revealed that there has been a 25% increase in reported rapes in Cambridgeshire. Over 1000 victims have contacted the police in the past four years.

Police are appealing for information in connection with all of the above cases. Anyone with information can contact police by calling 101 or information can be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following support services are available.

Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre: 01223 245888

Linkline: 01223 744444

Samaritans: 08457 909090