On 6 June 2023, following four previous attempts, Nouse finally sat down with North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) Zoë Metcalfe. With such a build up, I was greeted profusely with apologies but also a Google Teams backdrop of beautiful North Yorkshire.
The aim of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is to cut crime and deliver an effective police service within their police force area. To help prevent crime in North Yorkshire and the City of York, Zoë has implemented a strategy to address Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). It identifies the challenges women and girls face and crucially, how police, fire and our community partners, alongside Zoë’s office, work together to address them.
We first addressed Zoë’s opinion on whether the county, and York is a safe place for women and young girls. Zoë explained, “Statistically speaking, North Yorkshire and the City of York remain one of the safest places in the country overall”, however, “incidents of violence against women and girls do happen in York and the rest of North Yorkshire and not all of these incidents are reported, so statistics can only tell us part of the story”.
Zoë continued, “We also know that many women and girls do not feel safe and this is just as important an issue”. Nouse questioned how accurately Zoë can monitor Violence Against Women and Girls given that much goes unreported. Zoë responded, “It’s all about making sure all pathways are available for women and girls, and men too, to be able to report this and feel listened to by North Yorkshire police”.
Zoë’s VAWG Strategy lists six objectives including Listening to all Women and Girls, Tackling the root causes of VAWG through Prevention, and Increasing Public Confidence and Trust in the Police to name a few. The strategy was implemented in 2022 and will end in 2024. Regarding the strategy’s progress, Zoë explained, “I am proud… but there is still work to be done and I am committed to delivering on each objective set out in our VAWG strategy by 2024.
Within the first ten months, we have already improved outcomes and increased the numbers of victims accessing specialist support services than the year before we launched the strategy – demonstrating how putting a spotlight on VAWG is making a real difference across our community.”
Zoë highlighted some specific positive changes such as her contribution towards a specially converted campervan to go out and provide to support women in rural and isolated parts of the county.
Zoë was able to secure £100,000 from the Home Office for her VAWG strategy whereas she secured over £700,000 to help prevent neighbourhood crime. Nouse asked why there was such a disparity between funding, especially since the Association of PCCs tweeted on 19 October 2022 that 35 percent of people were concerned with violence against women and girls, whereas neighbourhood crime was only 25 percent.
Zoë explained, “it’s important to remember that in North Yorkshire we have many rural and isolated communities that are vulnerable to neighbourhood crime and the funding we successfully secured is making a huge difference to the safety of people's homes”.
The role of the PCC is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing. Nouse asked Zoë how she is connecting with the student community to hear their voice.
Zoë explained, “students are specifically referenced in the new VAWG Survey I am about to launch, and we will work closely with universities and colleges locally to ensure students know how to feedback their views and experiences of VAWG to help inform our plans for next year.
Unfortunately, a recent engagement event with students in York had to be cancelled, but we are trying to rearrange events for later in the year at both York and Scarborough campuses and I hope to raise awareness of the work we are collectively doing to tackle VAWG, inform on what support is available and how to access it, and also capture the voice of students and understand their experiences.
My office and I continue to work closely with both universities in York through the All About Respect project to identify other opportunities to speak to students”.
Nouse followed up, asking for more details about the cancelled student engagement. Zoë explained, “unfortunately the event was cancelled because we couldn’t get students to come to it”, however stressing that: “I’m desperate to hear from students, really. It’s so important that their voices are heard”.
Sticking to the subjects of students, Nouse explained to Zoë the issue of getting home safe after a night out. The University of York CB1 bus can be infrequent and taxis unavailable. The University of York Student Union set up ‘Nightsafe’ in which volunteers help get students home safe.
Nouse asked Zoë if there any plans to set up a similar scheme or to look into transport for students after a night out. Zoë said, “One of my priority areas for the coming months is to develop ‘Safe Spaces’ to keep women and girls safe both in person in our city and town centres and online, and this naturally includes getting home safely”.
Nouse asked where these safe spaces would be. Zoë answered, “on campus but also in the town Centre too”.
Nouse then asked Zoë if she thought more could be done in her role as PFCC to help the student community. Zoë explained, “there is always space for more, and I want to hear from Students”.
Next year, Zoë’s role as PFCC will be absorbed into the York and North Yorkshire Mayor’s office. Zoë explained that North Yorkshire is the “first” to do this and that “a lot of areas are looking at us to see if it will work”. Zoë has put herself forward as the Conservative candidate for Mayor but will find out the result in the “summertime”.
Consequentially, Nouse asked what Zoë will judge to be a marker of success in her work to deal with violence against women and girls. Zoë said, “If we see a step change. We're already seeing a real difference out there. More people are reporting, if I can leave it in a much better place then I’ll be delighted if we can have made a real positive difference then I’ll be happy”.
As part of the ten years of #PCCsMakingADifference, Nouse asked how Zoë wants to be remembered as North Yorkshire’s PFCC. Zoë said, “My contribution to ending violence against women and girls and supporting victims to cope and recover. Launching the strategy that’s never happened before”.
Contact Zoë here: Telephone 01423 569 562 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org.