Shropshire Star

Telford police launch new scheme to help women and girls feel safe when using buses

A new initiative that will see bobbies on the beat ride the bus has been launched in Telford.

West Mercia's 'Bus and Discuss' aims to make women and girls feel safer when travelling. Pictured: Rebecca Hopkins, Becky James (Violence Against Women and Girls officer) chat to Prisca Forje, sat in the middle

West Mercia's 'Bus and Discuss' scheme launched on Wednesday after a survey carried out by Telford & Wrekin Council found a percentage of women and girls feel unsafe at bus stops in Telford.

The Safety Matters survey ran at the beginning of 2023 and quizzed residents to help guide a £250,000 investment into supporting the safety of women and girls.

As a result, West Mercia Police, working alongside the council and Arriva, came up with 'Bus and Discuss', which will see officers carrying out regular patrols on the town’s bus network.

The scheme will allow people using public transport to speak to an officer if they have any concerns and aims to provide reassurances to the public as the darker nights draw in.

Inspector Jodie Davies, from Telford’s Problem Solving Hub, said she hopes the new initiative will "encourage open and constructive conversations between our officers and members of the public".

Officers Rebecca Hopkins, Amy Newbrook chat to: Jodie Mitchell and her three-year-old son, Joshua

“We won’t be on every bus, every day," she added, "but we hope to get out and about as often as we can, allowing people to talk to us if they have any concerns they wish to raise, and we are inviting people of all ages and from all backgrounds to chat freely with an officer if they see one whilst using a bus.

"Telford's bus routes are really helpful; we can cover such a large space in a short amount of time, which allows us to operate over many different areas, so we're talking to communities all across the boroughs. So far, the feedback has been great. It seems like people have really enjoyed chatting to our officers."

PSCO Amy Newbrook is based in Madeley and was one of the first officers on board on Wednesday to see the scheme set off.

"It went really well," she explained, "we had lots of positive engagement with members of the community.

"It's a great intel-gathering exercise too. There might be people who don't want to stop and chat with us on the streets, but this gives us the opportunity to chat with them while they're on the bus.

"We've already spoken to lots of women and girls about how they feel about catching the bus and waiting for the bus when it's darker at night - it can make them feel vulnerable."

Officer Amy Newbrook and inspector Jodie Davies

One passenger, Sharon Evans from Dawley, said she had enjoyed her conversation with the officer and was pleased to see them on board.

"I do catch the bus a lot," Sharon, 61, explained, "so I think it's a really good idea. It can make you feel quite intimidated when you're waiting for a bus at night, and sometimes I've been at the bus stop for half an hour.

"I was talking to them for about ten or 15 minutes today; it was nice to see them."

PC Rebecca James was appointed as Telford's Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) officer in May after 16 years on patrol.

Officers: Rebecca Hopkins, Amy Newbrook, Inspector Jodie Davies, Becky James VAWG Officer, Sergeant Neil Vaughan

She says the new scheme has multiple benefits for women and girls, as well as the wider community.

She said, "The research that the council did showed that women specifically feel unsafe at bus stops, that research sparked conversations about what we can do, and that has progressed into what we're doing today.

"Having PC's and PCSO's on the bus routes has a number of benefits; it hits the VAWG agenda, which we're being really proactive about at the moment as the nights draw in and the clocks go back.

"But it will help with all the concerns that people might have about their own safety as they travel back from work or schools and colleges at this time of the year."