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New ‘zone’ created to help women feel safer in Watford

From Herts Constabulary website:

Police and partners in Watford are piloting a dedicated scheme to help women feel safer during a night out.

A ‘safe zone’ has been created to operate as a dedicated area for women to seek help and support if they feel unwell or unsafe at any point during their evening.

The zone, which was soft-launched on Saturday 30 October, is hosted inside a private room provided by PRYZM where paramedics and security staff are stationed.

The project, which is being coordinated by Sergeant Craig Butler from the Watford Safer Neighbourhood Team, offers a one-stop shop where medical attention can be given and vulnerable people can be safeguarded.

While it has primarily been launched as part of Watford’s action plan to tackle violence against women and girls, the safe zone is available to everyone – whatever their gender.

Watford Chief Inspector Ian Grout said: “This project is still very much in its infancy but what it has proved is that we are stronger together. By having the support of our partners from the borough council, Watford BID and PRYZM themselves, I am confident that we are able to make a real difference.

“Those who regularly visit the bars and clubs in Watford know that there always is a high-visibility police presence for the night time economy. I personally spent some time with my teams in Watford town centre during a weekend earlier this month and everyone was in very good spirits.

“It was great to see the safe zone in action and while we thankfully did not see scores of people having to use its services, we were able to assist a small number who required our help to make it home safely.

“Together with our partners, we all have a responsibility to make Watford an even safer place to enjoy a night out and we are looking forward to further developing this project in the run up to Christmas and into the new year.”

Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “One of the reasons Watford is such a safe town is that along with the police and other partners we pilot projects like these and continuously look at how we can improve things – we never get complacent. We’re proud to support this worthwhile project which will make women feel supported and even more confident while enjoying a night out in our lively town. Watford is a town for everyone, so it’s important that we ensure women can go out, have fun and feel safe while doing so.”

PRYZM’s general manager, Jason Ash, said: “Everyone should feel safe on a night out, and this partnership approach demonstrates we are doing everything we can to protect this right. We are delighted to be able to provide the facility for the ‘safe zone’ and hope that people will continue to come out and enjoy a safe and fun night out in Watford.”

The safe zone – which can be accessed directly from the High Street without needing to enter the club – is currently available on both Friday and Saturday nights, and this will be subject to future review.

What else is being done to make women safer in Watford?

Response to needle-spiking: in recent weeks there has been extensive media coverage on the topic of suspected needle-spiking in nightclubs across the UK, however to date there have been no confirmed incidents in Watford. Chief Inspector Ian Grout said: “I can understand the public’s concern and people are absolutely doing the right thing by reporting incidents when they believe they may have been targeted. We will fully investigate any reports we receive and are also working with bars and clubs to review their security processes, making sure the town continues to be a safe place for everyone to enjoy a night out. By their very nature, these incidents are challenging to investigate and capturing evidential opportunities as soon as possible is absolutely vital so that if any drug has been administered, we have forensic proof of that. If you or a friend believe you have been spiked, then please report it to us as soon as possible – preferably in person to a police officer in our safe zone on the same night, so we can capture any evidence at the earliest opportunity.”

Dispersal orders and extra resources: police officers have additional powers available to them as part of their law-enforcement toolkit, to be used when proportionate and appropriate. An example of these powers are dispersal orders, which mean that police officers can ask a person or group to leave a location if they believe they will contribute to crime or disorder. If the person(s) subject to the order fail to leave, they will be arrested. In addition, extra resources in the form of a patrol car to monitor all night-time activity in the town centre will provide further back-up for officers already patrolling on foot.

Ask for Angela: this widely-publicised campaign is already well-established in Watford, with a large number of the town’s venues signed up to the scheme. It offers anyone who is on a first date, or who is being made to feel uncomfortable by another person, the chance to discretely ask bar staff for help in getting to a place of safety. A full list of participating venues can be found on the Hertfordshire Constabulary website.

Operation Advisory: Hertfordshire Constabulary’s annual education campaign serves as a reminder that sex without consent is always rape, whatever the circumstances. More information on the work being done countywide can be found on the constabulary’s website.

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