Downs 'are safe' despite sex attacks, says police boss

The Downs. Photo copyrighted but licensed for reuse. Image copyright Linda Bailey / Geograph
Image caption The Downs is a popular site for dog-walking, jogging and picnicking

Bristol's police and crime commissioner has reassured women after campaigners said they "don't feel safe" following several attacks on the city's Downs.

Sue Mountstevens said police had stepped up patrols on the Downs, which remained "open" to everyone.

Last week a woman was indecently assaulted while jogging near Stoke Road just before midnight.

It follows two sexual assaults on women in March and a third attempted attack in the Blackboy Hill area.

Police have been advising people to be wary and keep to well-lit areas at night.

The three incidents in March could be linked, officers say. No arrests have been made.

Image copyright Rhiannon Easterbrook
Image caption Rhiannon Easterbrook, who attended the march, said about 100 people had turned out

The Downs is a large area of protected parkland on the edge of Bristol, popular with dog-walkers, families and others. A march took place on Thursday aimed to "reclaim" the area following the attacks.

Organiser Lisa Benjamin said people loved using the Downs but "are feeling really frustrated that they don't feel safe here at the moment".

Rhiannon Easterbrook, who attended the march, said about 100 people turned out.

"We made our voices heard and are now celebrating and supporting each other," she added.

Two women were attacked on the footpath near Stoke Road during the evenings of 11 and 13 March.

Another woman was grabbed in nearby Durdham Park on 1 March, but managed to break free.

Separately a woman jogging was indecently assaulted on Stoke Road just before midnight on 21 May.

Mrs Mountstevens told BBC Radio Bristol there were extra police patrols on the Downs, including officers on horseback.

"That's to give very visible, reassurance to the public to say 'actually, the police are taking it very seriously' but also to deter any further assaults," she said.

She said the Downs was "an amazingly safe and unique place", adding: "It's open to us regardless of gender; regardless of time. It's there for us to enjoy."

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