Safeguarding success for police operation to tackle predatory behaviour
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A police operation set up to tackle sexual offending in the night-time economy has stopped almost 80 people and protected over 130 others in its first four months.
Operation Kayak was launched when Covid-19 restrictions on pubs, clubs and other venues were lifted in the summer, and sees Northamptonshire Police officers deployed within public town centre spaces, working with CCTV operators, all looking out for and disrupting potentially predatory behaviour.
Since it began, the operation has seen officers make 79 proactive interventions with males, report 87 vehicles seen in suspicious circumstances, and engage with and safeguard 131 vulnerable people.
Detective Inspector Liz Basham, who leads on Operation Kayak, said: “Since the terrible murder of Sarah Everard, it has become clearer than ever that women and girls across the UK don’t always feel safe on the streets. Operation Kayak was launched in direct response to provide both reassurance to those at most risk, and to highlight that we will not tolerate predatory behaviour in our towns.
“It is up to everyone to challenge such unacceptable behaviour, and we are so proud of the results of Op Kayak so far in illustrating how proactively we are looking out for and taking action against potential predators, while also helping anyone who needs it. Everyone should be able to enjoy a night out safely, and we remain dedicated to doing all we can to ensure this becomes a reality.”
Behaviour Op Kayak officers look out for includes loitering, leering, following lone/intoxicated individuals, approaching and harassing females and committing acts of sexual violence.
Officers deployed as part of Op Kayak have also dealt with 98 other incidents, and carried out two arrests for rape and five for sexual assault.
DI Basham said: “While the work of Operation Kayak is focused on spotting and preventing potential sexual offending, having extra officers out within the night-time economy also helps detect and prevent many other kinds of crime, helping to keep our town centres as safe as possible for everyone.”
As the height of the festive season approaches, the Force is re-issuing a reminder to anyone minded to cause trouble that police officers will be ready and waiting to stop them, and is also sharing safety advice to help revellers have a great night out.
DI Basham said: “‘Our first piece of advice is if you are going out with the intention of committing an act of sexual violence or want to make somebody feel uncomfortable or unsafe, don’t. We’ll be there ready to arrest you and will make sure anyone found to have committed an offence is charged and brought to account for it.
“For the vast majority of people who just want to have a good time, we’re just sharing gentle reminders to keep an eye on what and how much you drink, not to accept drinks from people you don’t know, to stick with trusted friends and to have a plan for getting home safely.”
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 newly-launched 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.
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, and many people returning to socialising since the reopening of the night-time economy may find their tolerance has lowered
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