Plain-clothed police target potential sex offenders on Northamptonshire's first party weekend in 17 months

Op Kayak officers patrolling hotspots will intercept anyone they suspect of loitering, leering, harassing or touching

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 7:09 am
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 7:10 am

Police are gearing up for the Northamptonshire nightspots' first 'proper' weekend in 17 months.

Nightclubs were allowed to open on Monday (July 19) for the first time since March 2020 while punters in pubs could ditch face masks and table service for 'vertical drinking.'

Alongside doubling the number of patrols in town centres, Northamptonshire Police has launched an operation targeting potential sex offenders preying on crowds.

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Operation Kayak launches today (July 23) with plain-clothed officers patrolling hotspot areas ready to intercept anyone they suspect of loitering, leering, harassing or touching.

Detective Superintendent Paul Rymarz, the Force’s Head of Crime said: “We are committed to ensuring our streets are safe and Operation Kayak is intended to help do this by making the county a hostile place for those intent on committing sexual offences.

“This proactive approach sends out a clear message: We are committed to making the streets safer and this is just one way in which we are working to tackle any unacceptable behaviour.”

Non-uniformed officers will not enter pubs and clubs but will work alongside door staff and venue management. Any concerns will be raised to officers who will respond accordingly.

Northampton's nightspots are geared up for their first full weekend since March 2020

Detective Inspector Liz Basham, who is leading the operation said: “Government restrictions are lifting and we want people to enjoy an evening out without feeling fearful – we want them to feel reassured that we have officers patrolling the streets keeping a watchful eye out for potential offenders.

“Operation Kayak is a joint effort and we are working alongside CCTV operators, Community Safety Partnerships, door staff, fast-food outlets and other working in the night-time economy to spread the message that offenders are unwelcome in our towns.”

■ If you see someone acting suspiciously, call 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.

Double the number of officers will be on duty in town centres in anticipation of large numbers of revellers heading out this weekend.

Superintendent Adam Ward, who leads on night-time economy policing for the force, said: “This marks a milestone that many people have been waiting a long time for, and we’ve been working hard with partners to make sure the full reopening of the night-time economy goes well.

“We’ll have increased resources out in town centres to help keep everyone safe, and our officers will be taking a firm but fair approach to any potential trouble-makers.

“Whether you’re looking forward to your first ever night out, or are excited to be resuming socialising like this, please remember to behave, be respectful of others and know your limits so a good time doesn’t turn into a bad time for you.”

“With big nights out having been off the cards for so long, remember your tolerance has probably fallen so our advice is to take it steady, stick with your friends and have a plan for getting yourself safely home.”

Police have a list of top tips for enjoying a safe night out:

■ Plan how you’re going to get home, arrange a lift or book a taxi in your name

■ Make sure your phone is fully charged before you go out

■ Stick with your friends and choose a meeting point to wait for each other if you get separated

■ If talking to a stranger, stay in a public place. If you feel uncomfortable, leave and go somewhere others will see you

■ Be aware of what you are drinking – if someone offers to buy you a drink, go with them to the bar and watch the drink being poured, and keep an eye on your drink at all times

■ Always keep the number of a reliable taxi firm with you. Avoid unlicensed minicabs or private-hire cars that tout for business

■ When the taxi arrives, check it’s the one you booked. If in doubt, don’t get in

■ Never accept a lift from a stranger