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Pilot operation launched in Bournemouth to protect the public and prevent sexual offending

19 August 2021
Dorset Police is launching a pilot operation in a bid to prevent sexual offences from taking place within Bournemouth town centre now that lockdown has lifted and there are more people enjoying the area's bars and clubs.

Using a combination of uniformed and plain-clothed officers, Operation Vigilant patrols will be carried out to identify individuals who may be displaying signs of unacceptable behaviour, such as sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and loitering.  Plain clothed officers will call in a uniformed intervention team when such behaviours are observed.

The intervention team will then consider their powers of arrest, dispersal powers or search powers depending on the circumstances observed. 

The operation will be carried out on a frequent basis and supports the national agenda for pro-actively preventing violence against women and girls. However, any sexually motivated assault or behaviour identified by officers will be investigated, regardless of who is involved or their gender.

The pilot will run for three months in Bournemouth town centre and, following evaluation, may be expanded to other parts of the county. It follows a successful similar operation carried out in Oxford town centre by Thames Valley Police. 

Neighbourhood Inspector Darren Harris, of Bournemouth Police, said: “Dorset Police is committed to ensuring residents and visitors can have an enjoyable night out without the fear of being sexually assaulted.  

“This operation will enable officers to witness unacceptable behaviour first-hand and intervene quickly.  There is no place in our community for this type of behaviour and it simply will not be tolerated. We will work hard to safeguard potential victims and bring offenders to justice. 

“These Op Vigilant patrols are additional to the high-visibility patrols that we already carry out in the town centre as part of our policing of the night-time economy. Our message to anyone intent on engaging in sexual offending is very clear – you are being watched and you will be dealt with robustly.”

If you are out and about anywhere in Dorset and feel unsafe, or see someone acting suspiciously, please dial 999 in an emergency, approach an officer, council officer, or speak to a member of pub or bar staff.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick said: “As part of my agenda around reducing violence against women and girls, I expressed views to Dorset Police on the need to address this particular issue in view of the reopening of the night-time economy, I am pleased that this new operation is being implemented.  

“But let me be clear – nobody should have to put up with any form of sexual harassment and the reopening of our night-time economy is not an excuse for subjecting people to unwanted attention. Nobody should have to worry about being on the receiving end of intrusive behaviour in our pubs, bars and nightclubs and I want everyone who may have experienced or witnessed this to contact the police.”

Anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault, whether recently or in the past, is encouraged to contact Dorset Police online from www.dorset.police.uk/do-it-online or by telephone to 101. In an emergency always call 999. Not everyone will wish to involve the police at first, but if that is the case please use the services provided anonymously by The Shores at 0800 970 9954 or www.the-shores.org.uk.

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