Project Vigilant was launched in 2019 to target predatory behaviour in order to prevent sexual offences taking place following a 12% increase in non-domestic sexual offences taking place in the Oxford local policing area, with 368 recorded in 2018 and 413 in 2019.
The initiative uses a combination of uniformed and undercover officers to carry out patrols to identify people who may be displaying signs of predatory behaviour such as sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and loitering. Uniformed officers then intervene and take positive action to discourage this behaviour, which may include arrest.
Following the success of this pilot, which saw a 50% reduction in rape and 30% reduction in sexual assaults in the night time economy in Oxford, Thames Valley Police will be extending this initiative to other areas across the Thames Valley. This will start to happen as the Coronavirus restrictions ease and the night time economy starts to reopen.
In October 2020, the force received a crime prevention award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for its work on Project Vigilant. It has now been recognised by the Government who announced yesterday (15/3) that they will be rolling out pilots across the country.
Detective Chief Inspector James Senior, of Oxford CID based at St Aldates police station said, “My team and I are committed to ensuring that the local community can have an enjoyable night out without the fear of being sexually assaulted.
“Through the pilot in Oxford, we found that utilising undercover officers and deploying them on the street meant that we were able to witness this behaviour first hand and intervene more quickly.
“This behaviour is clearly unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
“It was a real privilege to receive an international award for this initiative. It is fantastic that the work of our officers and staff has received international recognition and those involved in its implementation should be very proud.”
Chief Constable John Campbell said: “This proactive approach has had positive results and I am pleased that it has been recognised nationally as an important tactic in combatting sexual offending and increasing safety in the night time economy.
“This behaviour is clearly unacceptable and the force works hard to safeguard potential victims and bring offenders to justice.
“Thames Valley Police is committed to making the streets safer and Project Vigilant is just one way in which the force makes the Thames Valley a hostile place for perpetrators wanting to commit sexual offences.”
If you see someone acting suspiciously, please call Thames Valley Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency or approach an officer. If you are out and feel unsafe you can also speak to the nearest pub or club staff member for assistance too.