To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research he has commissioned or is aware of into the incidence amongst (a) women and (b) pensioners of fear of going out after dark; if he proposes to hold discussions with chief constables on the prevention of crimes against women and pensioners; if he will meet representatives of women's arid pensioners' organisations to discuss the problem; and of he will make a statement.
In recent years there have been a number of Home Office studies, principally the British crime surveys of 1982 and 1984, which, among other issues, covered the fear of going out after dark. The studies revealed that such fear among women and the elderly was substantial, particularly in some locations, but that levels of fear were frequently in excess of an objective assessment of the risk. Fieldwork is currently taking place for the 1988 British crime survey which will cover this issue again.Surveys by other organisations (for example the November 1987 poll by MORI for
Readers' Digest and an October poll for Help the Aged) have confirmed that fear of crime is a significant problem, especially for women and the elderly.
Chief officers of police and organisations such as Help the Aged and Age Concern give special attention to the particular needs of women and elderly people in the issue of crime prevention advice and guidance. The new Home Office handbook "Practical Ways to Crack Crime", which is freely available, contains sound, practical guidance specifically addressed to both groups. In addition, Government programmes such as the community or estate action programme and our plans to improve crime prevention on public transport are of particular benefit to potentially vulnerable groups.
We are satisfied that the police pay particular attention to the concerns of women and the elderly in planning local crime prevention campaigns. We are, however, keen to work closely with responsible organisations representing the interests of women and pensioners in reducing the fear of crime; and I and colleagues have meetings, from time to time, with such groups at local and national levels.