'I don't feel safe' - Women speak out as police launch safety campaign in Exeter

  • Watch Sam Blackledge's full report

Women in Exeter say they are too fearful to walk home alone at night following concerns over safety in the city.

One woman has told ITV West Country she has been warned of key streets and areas to avoid, while another said she always makes sure she is accompanied on her way home from a night out.

"I've heard so much stuff and there's so much stuff on Facebook about what streets you should avoid and what areas of Exeter to avoid," she said.

"We've heard such scary things that I don't feel safe."

Another woman added: "Walking home from a nightclub or a night out, I think you'd always find a boy or a girl to walk home with, just to make sure you're safe when you get to the door."

It comes as Devon and Cornwall Police say they are determined to make the city feel safer for women and girls, deploying extra officers and using CCTV to identify and arrest dangerous and predatory offenders.

Police in Exeter are carrying out 'Operation Vigilant' to make the city safer for women.

Police have also timed 'Operation Vigilant' to coincide with the start of universities' autumn term, with a focus on drink spiking and sexual assault.

Speaking during a night-time patrol, Inspector Simon Arliss said: "We've got young people, first time away from home, new city, new experiences, and of course alcohol in the mix, so it's even more important that we're here ensuring their safety.

"We, like any city, have had instances of drink spiking, whether that's drugs or excessive alcohol being put in people's drinks.

"We are very very keen that anyone who is a victim of drink spiking reports it as soon as they can, ideally in the pub or club, so the staff in there can take immediate action and we can follow up."

Exeter City Council's CCTV control room allows operators to monitor 170 cameras. Credit: ITV News

In the city's vast CCTV control room, footage from 170 cameras can be monitored in real-time, allowing operators to instantly alert the police to any worrying activity.

Operations manager Dennis Cavanagh said: "We're looking for behaviours that stand out from the norm - we're looking for individuals that are standing on the corners, standing in the shadows, watching the vulnerable people as they walk past, watching for the vulnerable females that are alone.

"We're looking for cars doing circuits of the city centre, stopping at taxi ranks but not picking anybody up, so we are there to stop that crime before it happens.

"We are stopping people from being assaulted, we are stopping criminal damage, we are stopping vehicle thefts on a daily and nightly basis."