We joined Met Police during nighttime crackdown on predatory men

We joined Met Police during nighttime crackdown on predatory men thumbnail

‘It is a shame, this used to be a really good bar,’ inspector Andy Durrant says as he points to a New Orleans-style chicken shop with a flashing sign.

It is 11pm on Thursday, and his patrol in Shoreditch, east London, has just started, but it is already orchestrated chaos that is expected to continue until about 5am.

Insp Durrant is leading a special operation targeting predatory behaviour towards women, and after working in the area for some time, he knows it like the back of his hand.

Bouncers were already standing firm outside some bars as Metro.co.uk joined his team part of Project Vigilant, which is designed to enable women to go on a night out without fear of violence.

Our night began with a 9pm briefing at Hoxton Square. There, 10 uniformed and two plain-clothes officers were briefed about their deployment to ‘harassment hotspots’.

The tactic is being used by the Metropolitan Police to tackle to identify and deter predatory offending in busy night-time locations.

And it was a good result for the team. A woman approached them directly after an incident of sexual touching inside a licensed premises.

Two men were arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, and remain in custody. An investigation is under way and the victim is being supported.

Eight men were also dispersed after they were identified as ‘displaying concerning behaviour’.

We spoke with Insp Durrant, who detailed some of the ‘change of environment’ he has witnessed in the area.

‘I do not want to get into too much detail, because we have a number of ongoing cases,’ he said.

‘But about a month ago, we had door security at a venue just up the road seeing a man with a heavily intoxicated young woman making his way to a parked car.

‘For whatever reason, the situation did not appear right to the door supervisor. At that point, he intervened and asked the young woman if she knows the man. She said she didn’t.

‘They called us on the direct radio, and officers arrived there quickly. Currently, we are investigating that man. We are starting to see this change of mindset from our partners. It is a real tangible change, as you instantly see the results.’

Plain-clothes officers are not deployed inside venues, but in public spaces to spot anyone who may be displaying predatory behaviour.

They will then alert their uniformed colleagues who will step in and take action if required.

The operation involves a lot of cooperation with partner agencies, security staff at venues and neighbourhood teams.

Sergeant Elliot Butler, who was part of the deployment, greeted staff at a number of bars, showing off the relationship between them and police.

What is Project Vigilant?

Project Vigilant, which was developed by Thames Valley Police, involves teams patrolling busy night-time locations in London boroughs to identify and deter predatory offending.

They are made up of both uniformed officers and officers in plain clothes from Public Protection and the Predatory Offender Units working together in order to make the area a hostile place for offenders.

As he introduced us to a security firm director standing outside an adult ball pit, they joked how the one-year anniversary of knowing each other is soon coming up.

‘We have a very good relationship with the bars in Shoreditch,’ Sgt Butler stressed.

‘Staff there will identify predatory offences and alert us. Spiking is common, but venues are relatively switched on about how to spot it and report it.

‘Sexual assaults are also regularly reported. We have a joined radio that the local authority, staff at bars and we monito on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

‘Rather than phoning 999, they can interact with us and get an urgent response.’

Hundreds of people were out despite the freezing temperatures and the light rain.

Officers were greeting people on the street, and checking in on how their evening was going.

It was unclear if the women they stopped knew what Project Vigilant was, but it is safe to say some looked wary of the interaction.

We asked Insp Durrant about the elephant in the room, that is the ever worsening relationship between women and police.

He said: ‘Of course, we know the fear women have. It is a real challenge and it is felt within the ranks.

‘I always like to think that every interaction me and my officers have with people is a really positive one. I always ask of my team to look smart and welcoming as it is the first impression, and you never get that back.

‘I request professionalism and total reassurance. We put 100% into this scheme. The tactics we put into Project Vigilant are really innovative.

‘Officers are trained, and they need to understand the challenge they are facing right from the start. It is not straightforward.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Get your need-to-know
latest news, feel-good stories, analysis and more