Thames Valley Police has been leading the way in protecting women from predatory men in the night time economy. Project Vigilant began prior to the pandemic and with the re-opening of the night-time economy in July the operation has been expanded and is now operating in Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Windsor.
The initiative uses a combination of uniformed and plain clothed officers to carry out patrols in areas outside night clubs, bars and pubs, to identify people who may be displaying signs of predatory behaviour, such as sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and loitering.
Plain clothed officers who identify this kind of behaviour will contact the dedicated Project Vigilant uniformed officers who will stop those identified and take positive action to discourage this behaviour, which may include arrest.
Thames Valley Police was awarded £90,000 of Home Office funding to fund a dedicated Sergeant to coordinate Project Vigilant across the force and commission an academic evaluation by Brighton University into the effectiveness of the project and the impact on future offending. The evaluation is currently ongoing and will allow us to have a better understanding of public confidence and how the force can improve engagement.
Project Vigilant has contributed to a reduction in sexual offences linked to the night-time economy in the four areas running the initiative. Between 23 July and 5 October 2021, compared to the same dates in 2019, there has been a 12.5% decrease in sexual violence in public spaces linked to the night-time economy. There has also been a 77% reduction in stranger rapes linked to the night-time economy.
In addition to this, 99 people across Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Windsor have been stopped and nine arrests have been made in relation to predatory behaviour.
Thames Valley’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Matthew Barber, said: “The fact that women still feel at risk on a night out is awful, but Project Vigilant is one of the way that the police can play their part in cutting crime against women and increasing confidence.
“The operation targets predatory men rather than focusing on potentially victims. It shows Thames Valley’s proactive approach to preventing crime and keeping the public safe.
“In addition, I have secured additional Home Office funding through the Safer Streets programme that will fund specific projects in Thames Valley to keep women safe.”