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Project Vigilant awarded further funding

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Thames Valley Police has been awarded further funding for Project Vigilant.

Today (10/11) as part of the Safety of Women at Night (SWAN) fund, Project Vigilant has been awarded a further £297,252 to develop the project and provide bespoke training to officers to identify individuals displaying predatory behaviour.

Project Vigilant is an initiative that uses a combination of uniformed and plain clothed officers to carry out patrols in areas outside night clubs, bars and pubs, to identify people who may be displaying signs of predatory behaviour, such as sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and loitering.

This funding will include bespoke behavioural detection training for frontline officers to identify predatory behaviour. This three day nationally accredited training, normally reserved for Counter Terrorism Policing, has been adapted to encompass predatory behaviour in the night time economy. This will enhance the skills of our officers to identify suspicious behaviour.

A new support pathway in partnership with Circles South East has been created whereby individuals identified as displaying predatory behaviour will be referred to a bespoke intervention programme delivered by Circles South East, a charity who are already established in their work with convicted sex offenders, to address their behaviour.

Bystander Intervention training will be offered to partner organisations and staff at local venues to provide them with the tools to identify predatory behaviour and empower them to challenge this behaviour in order to prevent sexual violence.

Between 23 July and 4 November 2021, 117 people across Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Windsor were stopped and ten 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 offending. 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 funding already awarded to Project Vigilant earlier this year where Thames Valley Police received £90,000 from the Home Office to recruit a dedicated Sergeant to coordinate Project Vigilant across the force and commission an academic evaluation by Brighton University into the effectiveness of the project and the impact on future offending. The evaluation is currently ongoing and will allow us to have a better understanding of public confidence and how the force can improve engagement.

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.”

Chief Superintendent Katy Barrow-Grint, force tactical lead for Violence Against Women and Girls, 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”.

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.