Is Leicester safe? Here’s what the residents and data say

As Tory and Labour candidates vie for the mantle of ‘law and order’, has crime gotten better or worse in the last few years?

Photo of PCC Rupert Matthews. Credit: OPCC
PCC Rupert Matthews posing for a photo with a Victorian-style blue lamp outside a police building as part of a plan to make the police more visible in local communities.pers

You come to Leicester, either for work, to study or to raise your family. You enjoy everything it has to offer. Eventually, you repeatedly hear the blares of sirens, see police cars or ambulances rushing past, and read about all the crimes in the news. You realise that Leicester, in all its brilliance, has its flaws.

Leicester’s reputation is becoming unstable due to the number of crimes occurring and the growing negative perception of crime amongst the community. With the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in May, it’s crucial to investigate how successful the current PCC, Rupert Matthews, has been now that the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Police and Crime Plan 2021-2024 is coming to an end.

Since his election, PCC Matthews believes he has “been by far the most visible and proactive Police and Crime Commissioner Leicester has had in terms of the initiatives I have sponsored and the time I’ve spent getting to know the real problems plaguing the city”.

The plan is “about making life safer for everyone who lives, works or visits Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. The PCC says it “is more than words on paper; it’s a living, breathing commitment to your wellbeing”. However, the negative perception of crime continues to increase, with many not feeling safe at all. 

What do local people say?

Warning: Some of the content in this section may be distressing.

Repeatedly in the news, there are reports of drugs seized by Leicestershire Police. County Lines Intensification Week, which ran from Monday, 4 March until Sunday, 10 March 2024, saw the police force target drug trafficking in and out of Leicester, disrupt the supply of drugs and raise awareness of Child Criminal Exploitation. During this week, Leicestershire Police made 42 arrests and seized quantities of drugs, including £6000 worth of crack cocaine and 437 cannabis plants. This is one example of where the PCC’s promise in the crime plan has come to fruition.

“It’s not an immigrant issue. A lot of people are very nice if reserved… but it’s a drug issue”. 

Although this is a significant success for the police force, residents of areas such as the Westcotes, which has had 417 recorded drug crimes between March 2021 and January 2024, still believe that drugs are a significant factor causing crime. “Crime isn’t taken seriously in Leicester,” said D. Mohammed, from the Westcotes area. “It’s not an immigrant issue. A lot of people are very nice if reserved… but it’s a drug issue”. 

“In addressing the deeply concerning issues in areas like Westcotes, especially prevalent among our student population, I assure you, we are on high alert and in action, not in silence,” says PCC Matthews. “We are intensifying our efforts, amplifying police presence and harnessing every resource available to ensure your safety”.

Screenshot of Leicestershire Police's website. Credit: Leicestershire Police
Leicestershire Police's website, where you can view some crime statistics.

On the Leicestershire Police’s website, it states that concerns about drug use and supply in the Westcotes area were actioned. Several warrants were executed in the region, which led to the seizing of a large amount of drugs and cash, many arrests and ongoing investigations.

With two universities and many pubs and clubs, many students go out at night to have a good time. However, for some, their night doesn’t just end with a sore throat from singing and a looming hangover. It ends with them becoming victims of crime. 

I spoke to a former student, who we are calling Gabriella, about her experience of crime. 

It was a Wednesday in December 2022, and Gabriella was at one of the last student nights of the year. Midway through the night, she had a sudden wave of anxiety and began having a panic attack outside the bar.

It was then that she decided to make her way back to her accommodation alone.

“In hindsight now, it wasn’t the smartest decision,” she says, recalling the events before what happened next. “I was in a sort of a weird mindset, so I wasn’t very aware of what was going on around me”. 

As she speed-walked to campus to meet her friend, who would drive her the rest of the way home, she heard footsteps behind her. A man began walking next to her. On a corner, she waited for her friend’s little white Mini car to arrive.

The same man who was following her stood right in front of her. “Within a second, he had grabbed me and pushed me up against a railing,” she says, remembering how she had to kick and push him off of her. “No words came out of my mouth as I was just shocked”.

As this situation happened, she caught a glimpse of her friend’s car and began running. Everything happened so quickly until she got into the car and the man stopped chasing after her.

It was a long process with the police, trying to get justice. In the end, her assaulter was charged for other crimes but not for hers. 

“this man had assaulted me, and there was no punishment for that”

“I was just upset because that’s not the point; this man had assaulted me, and there was no punishment for that,” she says. “The whole thing was a pretty long, stressful process that I think ended up with nothing in the end”.

Susie, not her real name to ensure her safety, spoke about her experience with domestic abuse and how Leicestershire Police dealt with the situation. She has been waiting for her ex-partner to be arrested for several months. She believes that the police are unorganised, which makes the whole process very long for her as a victim.

“When you’re trying to move on from something that’s happened to you, it’s hard to remember details,” she says, still awaiting justice.

In the year up to October 2023, Leicestershire Police received 16,889 domestic abuse reports, according to an investigation by Personal Injury Claims UK. However, the number is likely to be higher as less than 24% of domestic abuse crimes are reported to the police. A domestic abuse related call is made to the police every 30 seconds.

“It shouldn’t get to the extreme for it to be dealt with,” she says. “They really need to work on victim support for domestic abuse”.

Unfortunately, victim support for domestic abuse and other crimes does not meet the public’s expectations. Although Matthews’ crime plan mentions victim support, anecdotally, we have found victims don’t feel looked after.

A free and independent service, Victim First, was commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and delivered by Catch 22, a not-for-profit social business. This aims to support victims of crime in their journey to recovery confidentially. According to the PCC annual report 2022-2023, it had satisfaction rates of 96.8%.

The Violence Reduction Network for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (VRN) is an organisation that is committed to understanding and tackling the root causes of violence. It addresses critical issues regarding violence in Leicester through campaigns, interventions and projects. 

PCC Matthews says, “In partnership with the Violence Reduction Network, we’ve initiated proactive, educational campaigns to deter young individuals from crime, focusing on the dangers of knife possession and offering constructive alternatives”. This includes projects such as ‘We Don’t Carry Knives #LivesNotKnives’ and ‘Are You Listening?’.

“This comprehensive approach, backed by detailed crime data analysis, targets and mitigates violence hotspots, making our community a safer place for students to live and learn,” PCC Matthews says. In 2022-2023, VRN provided support to 3,275 children and young people who were at risk or involved in violence and reached over 2.3 million parents.

“Together, we will continue to build a community where safety is not just a statistic but a lived, palpable reality for every student, resident and visitor in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland,” PCC Matthews says.

What does the data reveal?

While statistics quantify crime in the city, it does not include unreported crimes. This means that the numbers could be even higher.

According to, an analytics company founded by an OSINT specialist, Leicester is the most dangerous place in Leicestershire. The city’s reputation is unstable, with a crime rate 41% higher than the region’s average and 48% higher than the national average.

“Crime in Leicester has seen a 7% drop in 2023, but let’s be crystal clear: our work is far from over. Every statistic reflects a story, a challenge overcome and a step closer to our shared vision of a secure community,” says PCC Matthews. Using statistics from CrimeRateThe Gazette has worked out nearly a 5% decrease between 2022 and 2023 – we have been unable to find the 7% statistic.

Despite the above data, Leicester City Centre has been awarded a Purple Flag after night-time crime has fallen by 28% over five years. This achievement makes this the fourth time the city has been recognised as a “safe and enjoyable destination during night-time hours”. This decision was made based on data between 2018 and the end of 2022 of 11 crime categories, which showed that the number of eight categories had decreased significantly. 

However, these statistics do not reflect reality, as most of that time frame included the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw a national lockdown where people couldn’t go outside, let alone commit crimes.

Additionally, the data used to award Leicester the Purple Flag only refer to crimes committed between 8pm on Friday nights and 5am on Saturday mornings and between 8pm on Saturday nights and 5am on Sunday mornings. This limits the credibility of the statistics, suggesting a 28% reduction in night-time crime when, in actual fact, this statistic does not account for the other days of the week. According to one hospitality workerThe Gazette interviewed a few weeks ago, “Thursdays are slowly becoming the new Friday nights” for night-time crime. Likewise, the University of Leicester and De Montfort University social nights are typically hosted on Wednesdays.

Photo of DMU's welcome sign.
Many students feel unsafe in the city.

One interviewee who was a student living in Leicester said that this recognition of Leicester as safe and enjoyable during the night is “a massive kick in the teeth to so many people who weren’t represented [in those statistics]”. 

“The recent drop in crime statistics, including the Purple Flag award for Leicester, is tangible proof of our relentless pursuit of a safer community,” says PCC Matthews. “However, this is no cause for complacency. We recognise that despite this, the spectre of daytime crime and weekday disturbances looms, particularly affecting our student community that contributes so much to life in Leicester”.

“Notable investments include £20,000 in first-aid training for night-time economy staff, the introduction of metal detectors and enhanced CCTV systems, all aimed at creating a secure atmosphere for students”. After speaking to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and other local organisations, we were directed to BID Leicester’s first aid service in partnership with St John’s Ambulance. This is a dedicated St John’s Ambulance first aid service in the city centre on certain days. However, we could not verify how far the £20,000 investment will stretch. Neither the OPCC nor BID Leicester seemed to know where the money ended up.

Although some statistics show a decline in crime, the community still perceives crime highly. “But let’s talk straight – numbers mean little if our streets don’t feel safe. I hear the concerns, the fears and the unease. The fight against crime is perpetual, evolving and all-encompassing. We are dedicated to not just curbing crime but dismantling the very fear that shadows our streets,” says PCC Matthews. “Our mission extends beyond the black and white of crime rates; it delves deep into the fabric of our community’s sense of security and wellbeing”.

For Leicester to gain a better reputation, there must be a multi-faceted approach that causes a significant decline in crime and for those who study, work or live here to feel safe.

What does Labour think?

Rory Palmer, Labour and Co-operative Candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner, said: 

“Whilst I commend the work of partners, especially the frontline city centre police team and licensed premises and their staff, and the Leicester BID team, in securing Purple Flag accreditation, we need to be realistic about those figures. They provide a very limited snapshot of crime, covering just two nights of the week and a few specific offences, including the period of Covid lockdown when the streets were deserted. 

“I know from conversations with business owners and staff that there are very strong and wide-ranging concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour. Like many people, I support our city centre hospitality businesses. As well as a candidate for police [and Crime] Commissioner, I’m a Leicester resident who enjoys a night out for a meal or drinks in the city centre or on Narborough Road, Queens Road or Allandale Road. Like everyone, I want to be and to feel safe when out and about. 

“Across the area, people tell me they feel less safe. They are not interested in claims about statistics and spin; they are worried, and lots of people have told me in recent weeks they just don’t bother reporting crime and anti-social behaviour any more. Scroll through any neighbourhood Facebook group every morning, and you see the impact of crime and anti-social behaviour on people and their quality of life”.
Photo of PCC candidate Rory Palmer. Credit: Rory Palmer / Labour Party
Rory Palmer canvassing with local Labour Party members ahead of the PCC elections in May

“I do not blame our frontline police officers and police staff or the officer leadership of Leicestershire Police. The reality is there’s just not enough police officers and they have too much to do. Official police reports outline the operational challenges caused by lots of officers leaving the force in recent years”.

In 2022, 178 police officers left Leicestershire Police, according to figures given to Planet Radio. However, in April 2023, Leicestershire Police announced that they exceeded their recruitment target set by the government.

“I know that safety on nights out is a particular concern to students. The student population and our two universities are an important part of city life here in Leicester. I want students to come to Leicester and enjoy their university experience and all the fun that comes with that. Safety is paramount. If I am elected, I intend to set up a new partnership with the student’s unions at Leicester University, DMU, Loughborough University and the sixth-form colleges, giving students and their reps a direct say on how we make the streets safer for students and everyone. 

“Support for victims of crime and witnesses is crucial. I want to see responsive and strengthened services in this area, and it will be a priority if I am elected. I want to work closely with and listen to victims and witnesses on how support and services can be improved. 

“In recent months, I have been having a series of conversations with organisations working with people affected by domestic abuse and violence. I’m listening carefully to what they are saying. It’s clear these specialist organisations need the stability of longer-term funding, and that’s what I will deliver. 

“Central to all of this is resources and funding. The sad and unacceptable reality is that we have fewer police officers on our streets than we did in 2009. Remember that from 2010 to 2018, the Conservatives cut over 500 officers from Leicestershire Police. We will hear lots of big claims and spin from the Conservatives about ‘record police numbers'. That is just not the case here in Leicestershire. And outrageously, there’s almost 200 police jobs at risk in the coming year”.

In 2009, there were 2344 police officers and 1253 police staff. In January 2023, there were 2242 police officers and 1202 police staff

“Leicestershire Police gets one of the least generous funding deals in the country from the Conservative Government. 36 out of 41 other forces get a better funding allocation. Whilst ever we are under-funded as a policing area, efforts to fight crime and improve community safety will be weakened.

“As Police [and Crime] Commissioner, I won’t just stand by and accept this. I will make sure our voice is heard on the national stage and that we get our fair share of funding. The Conservative commissioner has failed to secure a better funding deal for Leicestershire or to influence changes to how police funding is calculated. I will do this, and I am already making the case at a national level.

“And I make this clear and straightforward promise. If I am elected, and if I fail to get national police funding changed in Leicestershire’s favour, I will not stand for re-election in four years. No ifs, no buts. That’s how important and central my mission is to get our police the funding we need and deserve.

“There is a very clear choice at May’s election. More Conservative chaos or serious leadership, real change and safer streets with me, the Labour and Co-operative candidate”.

The Police and Crime Commissioner elections will take place on Thursday, 2 May 2024. Results will be announced mid to late afternoon on Friday, 3 May 2024.

If you have been a victim of a crime and need support, contact Victim First on 0800 953 9595, email them at, or visit for more information.

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