One chilly evening this week, we took to the streets to ask residents how safe they feel being out and about in Walcot during the darkness.
Margaret*, 64, said: “I visit my mother on a daily basis, I feel absolutely fine. I really, really do feel fine. I’ve never felt bothered at all. There’s a dark alleyway I use, but I’m only in there for a couple of seconds.
“I grew up in Walcot, my mum has lived here since I was nine-years-old. I’ve never had any problems at all. I sit at the bus stop and everyone is always friendly, they either start a conversation or say nothing at all.”
James*, 31, said: “I live in Park South, I come through Walcot nearly every day, sometimes by car, sometimes on foot, like tonight. I’ve been around the area all my life. I feel safer in Walcot than I do walking through Gorse Hill and the town centre.
“When I was younger, in my teens, I felt unsafe, but that wasn’t down to the area, more down to what I was involved in and the people I hung around with. You could say, it was brought on by myself doing things that weren’t quite legal and got you into trouble.”
Janet*, 53, said: “I don’t feel as safe as I used to when I first moved to the area in 1979. I used to walk all over the place, now I wouldn’t. If I didn’t have my dog, I wouldn’t be out walking at this time. It’s life in general that scares me. We’d had an attempted murder near by, but they are knocking Sussex Square down. I’m hoping it’ll make the area safer.
“I know that somewhere along this road is a drug house, which brings violence with it. My dog is 14-years-old, she won’t protect me, but people see you with a dog and they stand back. She’s the softest, she’s anybody’s really.”
Mina*, 60, said: “It’s pitch black and I’m going to walk around the school. I don’t feel intimidated or worried at all. But, on Somerville Road, it’s a different story, you get the groups of kids in ‘trouble mode’ which can feel intimidating. It all boils down to them having nowhere to go.
“But, no, I don’t feel unsafe at all. I don’t think my dog would protect me either, he’s six-years-old and thinks he’s an Alsatian. Everyone knows everyone around here. If I had any trouble, I knock on someone’s door for help.”
Joseph*, 71, said: “I went around to the garage to put my car away one evening, in the winter. Just as I was about to lock the garage doors, a tall man appeared with two others behind him. They stopped, looked at me, and looked really scary. So I walked into a well-lit area to get away.
“As I returned home, I could see them down my street. They had these huge stones, and were stood in front of a house. He absolutely whacked the stone at the window and broke the window. Then they ran away.
“I wouldn’t go out at night time. Since they’ve moved the shops from Sussex Square to Sussex Place, they are a lot better quality. Now that it’s not in a sheltered square where all the youngsters can congregate it’s more open and definitely deters crime.
“When you’re older, you don’t like to do out unless you have to. I wouldn’t going out on my own. I’m always wary, looking around to see who’s lurking in the shadows.”
*Names have been changed to protect their identities.