How Northamptonshire Police are making nights out in town safer for women since shocking murder of Sarah Everard

Operation Kayak leads to nine arrests for sex offences in town centres

Friday, 20th May 2022, 3:42 pm

Police say their campaign to keep town centres safe for women on nights out IS working.

Since Operation Kayak began in 2021, nine men have been arrested for sex offences including rape and assault.

And more than 200 vulnerable people have been supported and safeguarded with the help of increased checks on people and vehicles.

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Operation Kayak was launched in Northampton and Kettering in 2021 in the wake of Sarah Everard's shocking murder

Proactive policing operations in Northampton and Kettering town centres were stepped up after Covid restrictions on pubs, clubs and leisure facilities were lifted.

It was clear women did not feel safe following the murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 and more needed to be done to reduce sexual harassment and violence.

Detective Chief Inspector Nickie Deeks said: “Northampton and Kettering town centres are safe places to come for a night out and 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 behaviour, 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 concerns can be quickly flagged and dealt with.

"The team also liaise with street guardians and volunteers who work on the Safer Nights Out van to ensure the vulnerable are looked after.

“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 watching for and challenging suspicious activity.”

Kayak initially began as a pilot in 2021 funded by Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold.

Its success means the operation is now business as usual with officers patrolling hot spots on Friday and Saturdays and student nights.

These have also led to attending 162 unrelated incidents, and made arrests for a number of other offences including drink-driving, assaults and drug possession.

Top tips for staying safe on nights out

■ If you need help, speak to venue or door staff, street pastors or police

■ Tell venue staff immediately about any concerning behaviour, or call the police on 101 — or 999 in an emergency.

■ Be aware of what and how much you are drinking. Tolerance levels can vary 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 friends, keep an eye on each other and have a plan for getting home safely

■ If you have any concerns about someone’s wellbeing, tell venue staff or to police