Over 100 businesses in the Tooting parliamentary constituency have signed up to the Safe Space scheme, spearheaded by Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, meaning they have agreed to be a safe place for anyone in a dangerous situation, especially at night.
The businesses in Balham, Earlsfield, Furzedown, and Tooting, which display a green Safe Space sticker in their windows, will allow people to charge their phones and call a taxi or the police if necessary.
Allin-Khan said: “I am committed to ensuring that our community is a safe and welcoming place, where everyone feels comfortable to go about their daily lives freely.
“It is clear that many local businesses share this ambition too.
“That is why it came as little surprise that so many businesses have signed up to offer a place of sanctuary to anyone who feels at risk on our streets.”
An interactive map showing all participating businesses in Tooting is available online and similar schemes are in place in Barking and Dagenham and the parliamentary constituencies of Battersea, and Lambeth and Southwark
Adil Javid, Director of the Royal Mahal restaurant near Tooting Bec station was one of the first to sign up to the scheme.
He said: “It’s such a small thing for us to do as a business but with a huge positive impact on the community.”
Javid said the scheme is important to him because some of his staff have experienced harassment on the street.
Having run the business for 12 years, he said he thinks crime in Tooting is increasing alongside a decreasing police presence which makes people more fearful.
He said: “[The scheme] doesn’t really cost us anything, but at the same time we are making our community safer, which is always our number one priority.”
Sue McKinney, Secretary of the Balham and Tooting Community Association, also backed the scheme, and said: “We are proud to see many of our local shops, cafes and restaurants, the beating heart of our community, engaged in offering safe spaces to anyone who may feel unsafe on our streets.”
The Safe Space’s scheme comes as ONS surveys conducted in 2021 and 2022 revealed around 1 in 3 adults feel unsafe walking alone in the dark, with women reporting they felt less safe than men.
Image Credit: Office of Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP