New app shows women where recent sex attacks have taken place in Scotland

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A new app showing women the areas where recent sex attacks have taken place will be launched in Scotland next year.

Founded by former Dundee University student Jillian Kowalchuk, Safe & The City uses maps on mobile phones to highlight incidents of harassment of women by area.

The app will allow women to log sexual harassment and violence which they have experienced or witnessed on the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Alongside data recorded by local police, it will allow women to see where incidents have happened and avoid areas where there have been recent sexual assaults.

Tens of thousands of students from across the UK attend universities and colleges in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

And it is hoped that the app could help keep women safer and more informed in an unfamiliar city.

Ms Kowalchuk says that the idea came from experiences that she has seen throughout her life, including one particular instance of harassment in London.

She said: “Safe & The City came from a series of experiences being new to London, I’d moved from Canada and was reliant on a lot of navigation apps and trusted them.

“I was using Google Maps meeting a friend in a restaurant in London and took me to this alleyway where two men were on a smoking break.

“They thought it would be quite funny to rile me up and got very aggressive in what they were saying, and although they didn’t end up acting on those threats, someone else would walk into that situation.

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“I looked back thinking ‘how could that be prevented?’ for the dozens of people walking from that train station that night.”

The app, which launched on International Women’s Day earlier this year, looks to put safety at the fingertips of its users.

Ms Kowalchuk said: “We have over 5,000 users and thousands of pieces of unique data which we share anonymously with the Metropolitan Police.

“We have three different levels of risk including environmental, verbal and physical risk. People can also write in if they want to describe a bit more about what happened when they report and incident.

“People can be mindful that these things are happening on a massive scale and we can turn it around by putting out these effective but inexpensive ways to show this behaviour isn’t tolerated on the street.”

Safe & The City, which currently only operates in London, has plans to expand to Scottish cities by next summer.

Ms Kowalchuk added: “We want to start in the two main cities in Scotland; Edinburgh, because it is such a tourist destination, and Glasgow, because parts of the city have been viewed as likely to experience crime.

“Although this is partly about flagging areas which may be dangerous for women, as well as showing that some areas are safer than you think and debunking some of those stereotypes.

“I was born and raised in Glasgow.

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“When I moved to study in Dundee, I can appreciate how difficult it is to change cities and find your way around safely as a young women by yourself.

“Using Safe & The City to find my way safely helped reduce my fear as I could first-hand see where crime hotspots were and experiences of other women that could help protect me.”

Chief Inspector Scott Tees, Police Scotland Safer Communities, said: “In any situation, we advise people to plan their journey.

“Tell someone when and where you’re going and when to expect you to get there. If you decide to change your plans then let someone know.

“Carry a mobile phone and make sure it’s charged.

“If you are in an unfamiliar area, be aware of your surroundings and look confident about where you are going.

“Don’t take short-cuts through dark alleyways, parks or waste ground”.

Sandy Brindley, the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “These type of apps are well intentioned, and may be helpful for some but the reality is the sexual violence is not confined to certain areas.

“It can happen anywhere, most commonly in someone’s home, or in the home of the attacker.”