New safer nights out van launched by Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to support Northampton night time economy

The van has been introduced predominantly to help women and girls, however all are welcome

By Max Pearson
Thursday, 9th December 2021, 2:31 pm
The van will be available on Friday and Saturday night from mid-December onwards

A new Safer Nights Out (SNO) van has been introduced in Northampton to support vulnerable women and girls on nights out, although everyone is welcome.

The van will be staffed by DBS checked volunteers from Northampton Guardians and the Street Pastors, who will provide support, escorts and hand out supplies to those in need.

These include phone chargers, sick bags, wind-up hand torches, medical aid and rubber tops to cover people's drinks, among others.

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Commissioner Stephen Mold (Left) sits with Chief Inspector Rachael Handsford inside the SNO van

The van is being funded by the office of Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold, who said that the SNO van is part of a new approach by Northamptonshire Police.

He said: "As the night-time economy was opening up, we thought 'what can we do better?'"

"We've been looking at some of the best practice around the country, such as a similar initiative in Durham. I like to say we've borrowed with pride.

"If someone gets separated from their friends, if they feel vulnerable, if they need some fetching pink flip-flops because they've lost their shoes, or just need to sit down for a bit, then we can do that too.

The van will share items and information to help the vulnerable on nights out

"We want everyone to go out, be safe and have a good time knowing they can do that without feeling vulnerable. That's what this is all about."

When asked how the success of the new van might be measured, Commissioner Mold said: "How do we prove a negative? That will be by people going out, having a good time and not having any trouble."

Commissioner Mold has paid for the van with some of the £800,000 awarded to his office, as well as West Northamptonshire Council, through a joint bid to the Government that succeeded earlier this year.

Other parts of the fund have gone towards adding more CCTV to Beckets Park, Northampton, adding more street lights in certain areas, among other forms of community outreach.

Volunteers will be DBS checked and trained in basic first aid

Scott Fitzsimmons, joint leader of Northampton Guardians and Northamptonshire Emergency Service Volunteers, said that support will not be limited to the van itself, with patrols also providing the help.

He added: "I think for the first few weeks people aren't going to know the van is there. So if we have volunteers on patrol it will help with raising awareness as well as our reach.

"If someone is feeling unsafe they can reach out to the bouncers or bar staff. Many of them have our contact details so we can come down and give support.

Superintendent Adam Ward, who serves as Northampton Community Policing Commander including night-time economy policing, said that the van marks a first for Northampton.

He said that, while past efforts have focused on enforcement and prevention, the van provides vulnerable people with a place of safety.

The Superintendent said: "There will always be vulnerable people in the night-time economy. But because policing is a finite resource, this van can provide that additional place of safety.

"While the majority of people go out to have a fun and ethical night, we know there are a small number of predators who go out specifically to target vulnerable people, particularly women and girls.

"Our efforts aim to put a stop to that. Not just by enforcement, but also by assisting those vulnerable people by providing safety, drinks, chargers and so on."

The van will be parked visibly in Northampton town centre on Friday and Saturday nights from the middle of December onwards.