Police protect women on nights out by tackling inappropriate behaviour

A proactive policing operation in Northampton and Kettering town centres which aims to keep women safe on nights out is proving to be extremely effective at stopping offending behaviour, and in safeguarding the vulnerable.

The operation known as Operation Kayak was first introduced by Northamptonshire Police last year after covid lockdown restrictions on pubs, clubs and leisure facilities were lifted. It was clear that following the terrible murder of Sarah Everard, women did not feel safe, and much more was needed to be done across the whole of the UK to reduce sexual harassment and violence against women.

Violence Against Women and Girls is a matter of priority for Northamptonshire Police and an area of focus for at least the next three years.

Operation Kayak initially began as a pilot in 2021, and was funded by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. However due to its success, this operation has now become business as usual for the Force.

As part of the op, unformed officers undertake hot spot patrols on Friday and Saturday nights (and on student nights) to help reduce offending, safeguard the public and protect against sexual aggression, harassment, and inappropriate behaviour.

Since it began, officers from Operation Kayak have arrested nine men for sexual offences - including rape and sexual assault. Officers have also provided warnings and words of advice to people seen acting suspiciously, aggressively, or displaying concerning behaviours.

In addition, any vehicles seen loitering in or driving around Northampton and Kettering town centres are stopped to see if their reason for being in the area is valid. As part of the op more than 200 vulnerable people have been supported and safeguarded.

Detective Chief Inspector Nickie Deeks said: “Northampton and Kettering town centres are safe places to come for a night out.  The work we are doing as part of Operation Kayak continues to support this.  We want people to come into town and have a great evening. With our officers actively challenging inappropriate behaviours, it should feel like an even safer experience, particularly for women.

“Op Kayak is designed to reduce offending by specifically looking out for individuals who are being sexually aggressive, intimidating, or whose behaviour causes concern.

“For example, we are looking at those loitering in or driving around the town without reason, men repeatedly approaching women in the street or invading their personal space and making them feel uncomfortable. Those making lewd comments or displaying misogynistic views. As well as keeping an eye out for individuals with known offending histories and risk factors.

“Officers work closely with pubs and clubs and with door staff, so that patrons remain safe, and any concerning behaviours can be quickly flagged and dealt with. The team also liaise with the street guardians and volunteers who work on the Safer Nights Out Van (SNO van), to ensure the vulnerable are looked after and safeguarded.

“This is a very effective proactive operation, and we are really pleased with the progress we have made so far. We are reducing offending and successfully protecting the public by being a visible presence in the town centres and proactively watching for and challenging suspicious activity or behaviour.”

While being active in the night-time economy, Op Kayak officers have also attended 162 unrelated incidents, and made arrests for a number of other offences including drink driving, other driving offences, assaults and drug possession.

Violence and abuse disproportionately affects women and girls, and Northamptonshire Police has joined with other organisations across Northampton in promoting the It Only Takes One campaign, which aims to raise awareness of all forms of harassment and violence against women, and highlight that it only takes one person to say enough is enough to challenge misogynistic attitudes and inappropriate behaviours.  More information about the campaign is available from www.ItOnlyTakesOne.Org.UK

If you need help on a night out, speak to venue or door staff, street pastors or police officers.

Help is also available via the Safer Nights Out (SNO) van, a customised minibus staffed by vetted volunteers in the centre of Northampton between 10pm and 5am every Friday and Saturday.

If you see any behaviour that concerns you on a night out, tell venue staff immediately or call the police.

Report non-emergency crime via 101 or online at www.northants.police.uk/RO, or in an emergency, always call 999.

Advice for staying safe on a night out

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to share this advice, but sadly there are people who may look to take advantage of you on a night out, so:

  • Be aware of what and how much you are drinking – your tolerance for alcohol varies according to a range of factors.
  • Always look after your drinks. Don’t leave them unattended, don’t take drinks from strangers or pick up drinks at random – you have no way of knowing what’s in them
  • Stick with your friends – keep an eye on each other and have a plan for getting home safely
  • If you have any concerns about someone’s behaviour or wellbeing, report it immediately to venue staff or to police
  • Find more advice here

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