Islington’s police commander asks women and girls to share safety fears as force works to restore confidence

Weekend patrols from 7pm until 3am are being stepped up. Photograph: Met Police

A senior policeman has urged women and girls to share their safety concerns following the shocking murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer.

New Islington borough commander Andy Carter said he wants to hear from residents about how to restore their confidence in the police.

Just four weeks into his new post, he said: “It feels like a really seismic moment to do that.”

Chief superintendent Carter was quizzed by Islington Council’s policy and performance scrutiny committee about ways to reassure residents after Wayne Couzens was handed a whole-life sentence for killing Ms Everard.

Carter said: “It feels like the most significant week in my policing career.”

He stressed that Couzens’ act had appalled and distressed police too.

“I felt angry, upset, confused. What happened there was not part of the organisation that I joined or what I see day in, day out.”

Male plain clothes officers will no longer patrol alone after Couzens falsely arrested Ms Everard whilst off duty after a shift at the US Embassy in south London.

Carter said it was very rare that plain clothes officers worked alone but the step had been taken to reassure the public.

He told the committee: “I genuinely believe the vast majority of public support what we are trying to do.”

His colleague chief inspector Elaina Usher said police are working with women’s groups to learn more about what makes them feel unsafe.

She said: “It’s really important for us to understand how women can feel safer.”

Other measures include the Ask Angela scheme, in which anyone who does not feel safe can use the code word of asking for Angela in participating venues to get help.

There are also Safe Havens at some shops and bars in Islington where people can go if they feel unsafe.

Weekend patrols between 7pm to 3am are being stepped up for the next month at least, Usher said.

“We want all women and girls to feel safe in Islington and to come to us when  they are not feeling safe,” she added.

Carter said: “We have to do everything we can to ensure that never happens again.”

He added: “We have got to be sure that the standards we expect as an organisation, and the public expect from us, are met.”

An investigation is underway which will look at about why Couzens was in the police and why concerns about his conduct did not see him thrown out of the force.

Carter said wrongdoing is taken seriously and there are systems to protect those who raise concerns and they must feel able to come forward.

Cllr Sue Lukes, executive member for community safety, urged residents to encourage businesses in their neighbourhoods to become Safe Havens.

She said: “There’s a real desire I think, from lots of residents I’m talking to, to do something about women’s safety,  and this it’s something they can do.

“They can ask their local shops, their local pubs, anywhere that’s open day or night, to join the Safe Haven scheme.

“The more of them we get, the safer women and everybody else will feel going home, going to study, going out for the evening. If you can walk down a street and see four or five of those signs on your way home, it makes a huge difference to your feeling about being able to go out.”

She said daily safeguarding meetings between a range of partners have also had an impact since they were set up in January to keep women and children safe. There’s been a  188 per cent increase in referrals and 305 per cent increase in civil and legal protection orders designed to keep victims safe.

Cllr Lukes also urged people to contact the council’s Safe Spaces campaign to highlight anywhere such as an unlit alley which does not feel safe.