The MP for Peterborough has said she wants to find out why people are feeling unsafe in the city centre.
But Fiona Onasanya cautioned that the perception can be worse than the reality following a public meeting where residents said they felt nervous being in the centre at night.
The Labour MP heard from one audience member who felt unsafe after being asked for money three times in one evening.
Ms Onasanya told the Peterborough Telegraph: “People need to explain what the issue is. Do you feel it’s too dark? Do you feel like there’s young people hanging around and their faces are obscured, so you feel like, ‘oh I don’t know who those people are’? Is it the fact that you were approached by three different homeless people?”
The Labour MP acknowledged that feeling safe was “very, very important.” However, she called for “another approach” to tackling crime.
On the issue of homelessness, the MP said she would contact housing associations to tackle the underlying problem - “asking the police to arrest someone that’s homeless for a night doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.
Ms Onasanya was speaking alongside Peterborough police chief Superintendent Andy Gipp at the meeting.
Reflecting on the public’s concerns, she added: “Having a police presence was something that people were saying they think would make them feel more secure.
“However, if you look at what the superintendent was saying, they don’t have the resources. I think someone suggested that they’d previously had four police officers (in the city centre) 24/7. They don’t have the resources to do that.”
Speaking on women’s confidence following recent sexual assaults in the city, Ms Onasanya said: “I’m a female. I don’t feel unsafe. I don’t go anywhere with some sort of chaperone or anything and I’m a person of interest,”
However, she acknowledged that this is not the case for all residents: “Some people feel very, very unsafe. So I need to understand why that is.
“Where it’s a sexual assault or physical violence, that will be at the top of the police’s agenda, and that is something the police will look into and hopefully arrest the perpetrators of that violence.
“I say hopefully because it depends if they catch them at the scene or if they run off or if they find them… not even just finding the evidence but finding the individuals as well.”
Ms Onasanya added: “Personal safety and fear is a very personal thing. But, I always say fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.
“So I need to know what your fear is, what do you think might happen that hasn’t, so we can then seek to address that.”