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Operation Kayak, the successful policing initiative introduced by Northamptonshire Police last year to help keep women safe on weekend nights out will continue as usual over the festive period.
During Christmas, uniformed police officers will be out and about, undertaking proactive hot spot patrols on Friday and Saturday nights in Northampton and Kettering, to help reduce offending, safeguard the public, and protect against sexual aggression, harassment, and inappropriate or predatory behaviours.
The Operation Kayak patrols, which are funded by the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) Stephen Mold, have proved to be extremely effective at reducing offending behaviour and in safeguarding the vulnerable on nights out.
Detective Chief Inspector Nickie Deeks said: “We want people to come into town centres over Christmas and New Year and have a great night out with friends and family. Op Kayak officers will be actively deployed and patrolling in Kettering and Northampton to help everyone safely enjoy the festive celebrations.
“Our uniformed officers will challenge inappropriate behaviours, look out for individuals who are being sexually aggressive, or intimidating, or whose behaviour causes concern. They will also check the wellbeing of those who are vulnerable, and assist them where necessary to get support.”
In addition, the Op Kayak policing team will be watching for individuals loitering or driving around the town without reason, men repeatedly approaching women in the street, invading their personal space, or making them feel uncomfortable. Officers will actively keep a close eye out for individuals with known offending histories and risk factors. Drug detection dogs may also be deployed to assist the operational team over the busy festive period.
Since the initiative began last year the team have made 122 arrests, which includes 34 arrests for sexual offences - including rape and sexual assault. Officers have also engaged with 578 vulnerable people, and attended 162 unrelated incidents, such a drink driving, and other driving related offences, assaults, and drug possession.
Op Kayak 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 pastors, Northampton Guardians, and volunteers who work on the Safer Nights Out Van (SNO van), to ensure the vulnerable are looked after and safeguarded.
Op Kayak was first introduced by Northamptonshire Police after covid lockdown restrictions on pubs, clubs and leisure facilities were lifted in 2021. 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 became a matter of priority for Northamptonshire Police in 2022 and will be an area of increased focus for at least the next three years.
DCI Deeks said: “Operation Kayak is a very effective proactive operation, and we are really pleased with the progress made so far. We are reducing offending and successfully protecting the public by being a visible presence, proactively watching for and challenging suspicious activity and predatory behaviour.
“We’re really pleased that PFCC Stephen Mold has agreed to continue to fund Operation Kayak into 2023.”
Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “We need to make sure our town centres are safe and comfortable places not just for women, but everyone to visit at night. I have funded the SNOvan, which is a safe place that the Northampton Guardians and volunteers use to support people who need help. I have joined the officers on Operation Kayak patrol and seen how effective they are in targeting the people whose aim is to prey on vulnerable women - I am pleased to be able to ensure it continues.”
Help on a night out
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 behaviours that concern 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: