Aylesbury's police force awarded nearly £300k for women's safety causes

The money will be used to train officers to spot predatory behaviour, the police force says

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 3:54 pm

Aylesbury's police force has been granted an additional £297,252 to fund a women's safety project.

The Thames Valley Police was given the new kitty for Project Vigilant, a scheme designed to improve law enforcement's ability to keep women safe at night.

Thames Valley Police says the money will help develop the project and allow officers to receive more bespoke training to help spot predatory behaviour.

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Project vigilant uses uniformed and plain clothes officers

Project Vigilant was initially launched in Oxford in 2019 and after a successful rollout it was expanded to cover the entire Thames Valley in March.

The scheme has plain clothed and uniformed officers working in tandem in attempts to make women feel safer on nights out.

Police officers hope to identify people who may be displaying signs of predatory behaviour, such as sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and loitering.

Now with hundreds of thousands more in the bank, additional training sessions can be given to frontline officers.

Thames Valley Police funding breakdown graphic

Thames Valley Police says the training officers will get, is normally reserved for Counter Terrorism Policing.

The adapted version focusing in on predatory behaviour at night, will last for three days.

Circles South East, a charity which works with convicted sex offenders, to address their behaviour, has been drafted in to help create a new support pathway.

This intervention programme will be used to rehabilitate individuals identified as displaying predatory behaviour.

Dominic Williams, senior manager at Circles South East, said: “Circles South East has operated within the field of sexual abuse for twenty years. Our work involves intervention programmes designed to prevent convicted perpetrators from re-offending, and services for those impacted by sexual abuse, including survivors, designed to assist their recovery.

“As a Charity, we have long wished for the opportunity to work in an entirely preventative way, before the crime has been committed. Project Vigilant is that opportunity, Circles South East has the necessary skills and we are very glad to be part of this excellent initiative.”

The new money means, the police can offer bystander intervention training to staff at clubs and bars.

Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley, Matthew Barber, said: “I am delighted to have successfully obtained this additional funding from the Home Office to support the important work of Project Vigilant, in identifying individuals displaying predatory behaviour across the Thames Valley.

"Project Vigilant is directly supporting my Police & Criminal Justice Plan by focusing on prevention and targeting the perpetrators of crime.

“Through a new partnership with Circles South East, we will provide a bespoke intervention programme, for individuals identified as displaying behaviour that may fall below the criminal threshold.

“This additional funding will further support the work of Project Vigilant, by allowing officers to take nationally accredited training to enhance skills in identifying suspicious behaviours.”

Between 23 July and 4 November 2021, 117 people across Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Windsor were stopped and 10 arrests have been made in relation to predatory behaviour.

Of those stopped that provided their details, 20% were found to have links to sexual or predatory offending and 21% had links to violent offences.

Stops included those that were harassing women, making unwanted sexualised comments and loitering in areas where sexual offences take place

This funding is in addition to £90,000 from the Home Office to recruit a dedicated Sergeant to coordinate Project Vigilant and commission an academic evaluation by Brighton University into the effectiveness of the scheme.

Chief Superintendent Katy Barrow-Grint said: “I am really pleased that Project Vigilant has been recognised again by the Home Office as an innovative initiative and considered for additional funding.

"We are sending out a clear message to predatory individuals that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

"It is clear that we are stopping the right people in the right locations before an offence has taken place and this funding will allow us to continue to develop the project with our partners and enhance the skills of our officers."