Reclaim the night protesters raise awareness to women's safety.

Shocking new figures show how many sexual crimes have occurred in Piccadilly Gardens.

  • New FOI figures show a scary reality for women and girls in Manchester.
  • Police say more action needs to be taken to ensure the safety of women and girls.
  • Police have continued their efforts by re-launching Operation Lioness.

New figures show alarming rates of sexual crimes in Piccadilly Gardens since 2021, raising significant concerns about women’s safety in Manchester city centre.

The figures, obtained by the Northern Quota under the Freedom of Information Act, showed nearly 300 recorded rapes and sexual assaults have taken place in Piccadilly Gardens from 2021 to 2023.

The statistics show that in 2021, there were 85 rapes and sexual assaults, whereas the number decreased to 65 in October 2023.

Despite a slight decrease, the figure is still extremely high.

Police are working with women’s organisations to reduce the number of sexual crimes against women across Manchester. Photo Credit: Rebecca Mills

Police efforts 

The Greater Manchester Police told the Northern Quota:  “Greater Manchester Police is committed to continuing its efforts and working closely with partners to ensure the safety of women and girls across Manchester.”

“There are a number of proactive operations in Piccadilly Gardens and across Manchester, such as Operation Lioness and Operation Vulcan,” Police said.

These operations involve uniformed and plain-clothed officers who monitor the area for any signs of criminal activity or predatory behaviour.

Greater Manchester Police increased patrols during Christmas and New Year as part of the Safer Streets Government initiative to make women feel safer. Photo Credit: Rebecca Mills

Collaborative Approach 

Greater Manchester Police stated: “During these patrols, officers engage with door staff, taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, and licensees, encouraging staff to challenge or report any inappropriate behaviour or criminal activity.”

In addition, GMP raises awareness of topics such as signs of exploitation and drink spiking. 

Operation Lioness resulted in over 90 interventions against perpetrators, which included arrests for sexual crimes, breach of sexual offending orders, stop searches and intelligence submissions. 

Concerns regarding women’s safety in Picadilly Gardens included poor lighting, dark corners, and lack of safety measures. Photo Credit: Rebecca Mills

“More work needs to be done” 

Detective Superintendent Dave Meeney of GMP City Centre Neighbourhood Team said: “Greater Manchester Police is continually committed to improving its service and tackling violence against women and girls.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, and we will continue working tirelessly with partner agencies and local authorities to keep women and girls safe,” He said.

Phoebe Boniface shows off the sign she made, and expressed more needs to be done regarding women's safety. Her sign reads 'Not your property' .
Phoebe Boniface, pictured above, called for greater awareness and action to ensure women’s safety at night. Photo Credit: Rebecca Mills

Reclaim The Night

The Reclaim the Night march, which raises awareness of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, took place in Manchester City Centre on November 29th 2023.  

Phoebe Boniface, 21, a student at BIMM University, said: “You can’t turn any more blind eyes; the figures speak for themselves.”

“I walk through Piccadilly Gardens every night from work, and it is the most terrifying part of my journey home,” She said.

Additionally, Phoebe stated: “Walking past all these big buildings, with loads of dark corners, and there is no security, police, or protection.”

A Ministry of Justice report showed that there are 11,700 sexual offence cases awaiting court proceedings, 2,376 of which are adult rape cases. Video Credit: Rebecca Mills

Low Conviction Rate

A report by Office for National Statistics showed that police recorded 68,109 rapes between July 2022 and June 2023.

Yet, a Home Office Report found only 2.2% of rapes recorded by police in the year
to June 2023 led to criminal charges.

Police have received positive feedback on their proactive efforts in the city centre, such as Operation Lioness. Photo Credit: Rebecca Mills

‘Those figures are shocking…’ 

Beth O’Rafferty, a University of Manchester student, said: “Those figures are shocking, and clearly there’s a huge issue with sexual assaults and anti-social behaviour around Piccadilly Gardens. 

“I’d be interested to know what Manchester City Council are doing to tackle this – improved lighting in the park and night angels could be the first steps taken,” Beth said.

Florence Brown, 23, a University of Manchester student, said: “I would feel safer if there were more night angels around at night or more safe places for women.”

“I just don’t understand why local councils aren’t implementing these things,” she said.

The Northern Quota reached out to Manchester City Council. However, there was no reply.

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