Violence damages parks' image

Recent attacks on teenagers could turn parks into no-go zones and set back the push to encourage the public into green spaces, parks consultant Sid Sullivan has said.

In the latest tragedy, Fuad Bura-leh, 19, died in hospital after being attacked in a park in Ealing, west London, on Saturday (26 January).

His death follows an attack on Jessica Knight, 14, who is critically ill after being stabbed on a path into Astley Park in Chorley, Lancashire, on 21 January. Just a few days before that, a 16-year-old was sexually assaulted in Kensington Gardens, London.

High-profile cases like these can damage the public's perception of how safe parks are, Sullivan said.

He added: "We're marketing our parks as a safe place to be, and this type of incident puts people off.

"We can't allow any of our parks to become no-go areas, particularly among young people who are the very audience we're trying to attract to use our parks."

He suggested the publication of statistics on attacks in parks and more park patrols could help ease concerns about safety in parks.

Astley Village Parish Council chairman John Lawson said he did not believe parks were becoming more unsafe after the Astley Park attack, but that he would hesitate to walk through a park after dark. He added that there was CCTV in the nearby street but it was expensive to install throughout the park.

Parks Agency consultant Stewart Harding said parks were no more dangerous than town centres, but attacks made people more wary.

Royal Parks police commander Simon Ovens said the Royal Parks were some of the safest parks in London: "There are only 1,200 crimes each year across all the Royal Parks and we've got the highest reduction rates in London."

"I'm sure it does put people off but these incidents are so random - most people I deal with are doing all they can to cut crime and the perception of crime."

He added that Astley Park has just received lottery funding and is undergoing a revamp that includes the introduction of site-based staff.

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