Police to meet women of Hebden Bridge after spate of flashing incidents in Upper Calder Valley leaves walkers and joggers on edge

West Yorkshire Police will hold a community surgery with women in Hebden Bridge after a spate of worrying 'flashing' incidents in the Upper Calder Valley.

The force is investigating four incidents of indecent exposure that have taken place since August - including one in which a man was seen driving around Heptonstall while masturbating on October 13.

In the summer incidents, women reported seeing a man exposing himself in isolated spots around the village of Heptonstall and Widdop Reservoir.

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Several of the incidents occurred near Widdop Reservoir

Police have made two arrests in relation to the October 13 report, but are not formally linking it with the earlier incidents.

Upper Calder Valley residents claim that there have been two further incidents which were circulated locally, with one victim reporting she was flashed by a man while out jogging on Jumble Hall Road, between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, in mid-September, and another woman claiming she was confronted by a young man with his trousers around his ankles in woodland near Harvelin Park in early October.

West Yorkshire Police have now confirmed that a community surgery will be held later this month to provide updates on the investigations after women living in the area expressed fears that the incidents could be connected.

A women's running group in the town have organised a Reclaim the Night protest to raise awareness of the need for a robust police response, and several residents are also writing to West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin about their concerns.

One woman who lives in the area said: "The backdrop of Sarah Everard’s murder means that many people are recognising that indecent exposure is an activity that’s on the same spectrum as more serious sexual and violent crimes.

"Some officers have not demonstrated an awareness of the scale of the problem locally, and have used language that many of us feel diminishes the criminal and abhorrent nature of the activity. A recent comment described a suspect as ‘pleasuring himself’ and didn’t portray the activity as a serious crime that warrants a 999 call.

"Some of the witnesses are very traumatised by their experience. I am also personally frightened and I have two young children whose freedom I am now curtailing.

"I know statistically that women are far more likely to suffer violent and/or sexual offences at the hands of someone they know. And I’m also aware that police resources are very scarce. But these incidents make our community feel on edge, and unsafe. We want to know how best to deal with any future incidents, to give the police the best chance of apprehending the perpetrator(s).

"As time has gone on, the whole community has recognised the need to be vigilant and report things swiftly, and take care with what details are shared on public forums.

"Having the utmost clarity from the police on how seriously they take this as a crime, and what any witnesses should do if they encounter it, would have helped enormously.

"People in and around Heptonstall feel unsafe - children who walked themselves to school are now being accompanied by parents. Women are scared to take their dog for a walk or go for a solo run. It’s affecting people’s daily lives quite profoundly.’

Chief Inspector Gary Panther, of Calderdale Police said: “We are aware of three reports of incidents of indecent exposure since August, and further incident of a man who is believed to have been committing an act of outraging public decency in his car on October 13.

“Two arrests were made in connection to the incident on October 13, and enquiries remain ongoing. I would encourage anyone who has witnessed anything suspicious or if anyone has any concerns to come forward and assist with the investigation.

“Following these incidents, we have deployed additional patrols to the local area to provide reassurance and support for residents of the area who may have concerns.

“We will also be hosting a surgery next week in Hebden Bridge, where officers will be on hand to answer any questions or concerns people may have about these incidents, or any other issues that they may wish to discuss. Details of this will be available on our social media channels.

“At this time, we do not believe these incidents to be linked and we take a zero-tolerance approach to this type of behaviour and we ask anyone with information to contact Calderdale police on 101, or if you witness this type of incident, to please get in touch.

“We understand that incidents of this nature cause a lot of upset and distress to the community, but we are determined find those responsible.”