Sexual assaults in Camden parks double – but only one arrest made
- Credit: Kat Pirnak
Reports of sexual assaults in Camden parks and green spaces have almost doubled in the last three years, with only one arrest, the Ham&High can reveal.
A total of 78 sexual assaults were recorded in Camden borough parks from January 2018 to September 2021.
Only one arrest, in 2019, was made during this time.
Co-founder of Reclaim These Streets, Jamie Klingler, told this paper: “There's a certain lawlessness in Camden that everyone expects which forces us women back into our homes and makes our lives so much smaller.”
Jamie said that, as a resident of Camden, she often feels unsafe inside and around parks within the borough.
“One man jumped out at me whilst running so I made the decision not to run on some days anymore because it stresses me out,” she said.
“We need to talk about why there's so much male aggression and why there's so much sexual violence.
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"And if you don't believe that there's a problem with violence against women in our society, then you're probably perpetrating violence against women in our society.”
By September 2021, 26 incidents of sexual assaults had already been reported to the police compared to the 14 assaults reported by the end of 2018 – an increase of 86%.
However, Jamie agreed that it is unlikely the data reflects the true number of assaults happening in Camden parks due to the lack of trust women currently have in the police.
A 22-year-old student at the University College London (UCL) told the Ham&High that she did not consider going to the police after she was harassed by a man in a park within the borough.
“A lot of people feel like they don't want to make a scene in public. Had I been alone, my situation could have ended very differently. I live very close to that park, and I have not gone there again after that experience," she said.
“Generally, if I see men hanging around in a park when it’s dark, I don’t feel safe going in, which is frustrating because I love parks.
"The police should be doing more to encourage women to report assaults and make them feel safe.”
Both Jamie and the UCL student said they were “shocked" but not surprised that only one arrest was made in connection to the 78 reported sexual assaults.
The student, who wished to remain anonymous, added that councils could also do more to increase women’s safety in parks by adding more streetlights.
Cllr Nadia Shaw, Camden Council's cabinet member for safer communities said the council has already improved lighting and installed more CCTV cameras across the borough.
“Our priority is to ensure Camden is a place where women and girls feel safe to go about their daily lives without feeling intimidated, frightened, or threatened,” she said.
“No woman should feel unsafe in our borough, and we can all play our part to call out, challenge and change ourselves, our friends, and communities, to make the borough a safe place for all.”
As part of an annual campaign against gender-based violence, known as the 16 Days of Activism, the council held a vigil last month to remember the 113 women killed by men in 2021.
Several of these women, including Sabina Nessa, Nicole Smallman and her sister Bibaa Henry were attacked in parks throughout London.
In response to the data a spokesperson for the Met said: "Violence against women and girls has a profound and long-lasting impact on those directly affected. It also impacts on local communities and the public’s confidence in policing and the safety of their area.
"Every day we are working closely with our partners across Camden to deliver a safe environment for women and girls to go about their daily lives without the fear of becoming victims of crime.
"Working with our partners across the criminal justice system, we are determined to bring offenders to justice.
"We have stepped up our patrols of open spaces across Camden and use reports from members of the public to increase our presence in locations where people tell us they don't feel safe.
"I would urge anyone with concerns about a particular area to report it to us using the StreetSafe app."
Royal Parks, which manages Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, was approached for comment.