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Empowering people to exercise safely | Letter

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In response to Zoe Williams’ piece (Why are the police telling women to go jogging in packs?, G2, 31 January), as leader of the Avon and Somerset police campaign that she refers to I would like to clarify a few points.

Advice to consider joining a running club is for those who may feel more confident in tackling this type of behaviour as part of a group, and those who may be put off exercising altogether because of the fear of encountering it – a very real issue which has been raised with us in focus group work with local running clubs.

The campaign is in response to a number of incidents of this nature in Bristol, reported to us by runners who had not known how to respond and who asked us for advice. The campaign also includes a warning to perpetrators of this type of behaviour that they could face prosecution, a fact entirely overlooked in the piece. In fact, we are one of only a handful of forces who record hate crimes and incidents that target a victim’s gender, and our partnership with Bristol Zero Tolerance, who have done a lot of research in this area, has informed our messaging.

Saying that joining a group may be helpful for some people does not mean that we think women shouldn’t run alone – a point that both I and the Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, made at the Bristol launch. Indeed I run by myself.

Finally, the piece states: “Avon and Somerset Police, meanwhile, have recommended that runners don’t listen to music and vary their routes.” We do not suggest this in our campaign materials.

Hopefully this clarifies what our campaign is actually about – empowering women and men to exercise outdoors safely, however they wish to do so.
Det Supt Marie Wright
Avon and Somerset police

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