Leeds Student newspaper recently published an article about an attack on a student who was crossing Woodhouse Moor in the dark. As a result of this article, Councillor Gerry Harper invited representatives from Leeds Student newspaper to attend a meeting to discuss the paper’s concerns about this attack and other recent attacks in the ward. The meeting was held earlier this evening at Leeds Civic Hall. It was attended by community representatives and was addressed by Inspector Ian O’Brien from West Yorkshire Police. Inspector O’Brien said that there are always a spate of attacks in this ward in the period around Bonfire Night and that there have been no more attacks this year than in previous years. However, as a result of the disquiet following the newspaper’s reports of the attacks, Inspector O’Brien said the police have allocated twice the normal level of police to robbery and burglary duties in this area. These extra police have been diverted from other areas. Four people have already been arrested who may be connected with the attacks. They are not local people. They come from Leeds 7. Inspector O’Brien said he believes those involved in the attack on Woodhouse Moor numbered only three or four individuals, although they were part of a larger group. He believes the other members of the group backed off when they saw what was being done to the student. He said he believes that the attackers were hooded, and not masked as reported by Leeds Student newspaper. The inspector said that Leeds Student newspaper would like to see (1) lighting on the paths on the Moor, and (2) two policemen to patrol the park all night from 5pm to 7am. The inspector said that the view of the police is that lighting the paths on the Moor would lead to an increase in the number of attacks that take place on the Moor. He said the increase would happen because lighting would attract extra foot traffic at night across the park, and would make those crossing the park more visible to would-be attackers. He said that his advice is for people to walk around the park at night, and not across it.

Ben Fisher from the student union executive said he also believes that lighting would encourage more people to cross the Moor at night, in the false belief that lighting makes it safe. Ben added that the lighting would make it easier for people crossing the Moor to be targeted and attacked.

No representative from Leeds Student newspaper attended the meeting.

Later this evening, at the Hyde Park and Woodhouse Forum, Parks and Countryside’s operations manager Kris Nenadic spoke about the problems involved with any scheme to light the Moor. He said that to be effective the lighting would have to cover the entire park and not just the paths. He added that they’re no longer able to suspend electric cable because of cable thefts, and so they’d have to lay the cable in trenches, and with all of the paths being tree-lined, this would cause substantial damage to the roots of half the trees on the park. He said they’d also have to cut back the branches of the trees to enable the lights to shine on the paths, and to enable CCTV to have access to the paths. He added that CCTV would be ineffective against hooded attackers as the hoods would prevent the attackers being identified. Mr Nenadic said that Parks and Countryside believe that lighting would lead to an increase in the number of attacks for the reasons already given.

Councillor Harper said it was important for everyone to take responsibility for their own safety and to avoid the park after dark. He said it only takes a few minutes extra to walk around the park and that this is what people should do in order to stay safe. He added that he would never dream of crossing the park after dark.

Councillor Akhtar agreed with Councillor Harper about the need to avoid the park after dark.

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