The University of Northampton and Students' Union have kindly donated office space at the new Platform venue, equipped with first-aid equipment, for use by police officers and street pastors on Friday and Saturday nights.
This provides a fit-for-purpose town centre building where people who may have found themselves in a vulnerable situation can be taken to ensure their safety, away from public view and in a relatively comfortable environment, until they can be appropriately looked after.
The new Welfare and Safeguarding Hub will also provide a central location for officers patrolling the busy night-time economy, where they can do paperwork and conduct initial inquiries without having to return to a main police station.
This will support and be in addition to the Force's weekly Nightsafe policing operation in the town centre, with the intention being to staff the office from 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays until 4am the following morning.
Inspector Dave Rayfield from Northamptonshire Police said: “We're really grateful to the Students' Union and the University of Northampton for their contribution to this initiative.
“The building is ideally placed to help to make the town centre a safer place on Friday and Saturday nights. We recognise that people coming into the town are at times in need of extra support and we believe this service will help to provide some of that support when people are identified to us.
“Although the centre is not open directly to the public, anyone who has concerns about someone's wellbeing during a night out is encouraged to bring it to the attention of a police officer, street pastor or door staff, who will be able to seek support at the new centre.”
Rafael Garcia-Krailing, Students' Union President, said: “The Students' Union is committed to not only ensuring our students, members and customers can enjoy an outstanding experience in our own venues, but that everyone can enjoy a safe night out in Northampton's town centre, assured that, if they require additional support, there is an appropriate safe space for them.
“We have a fantastic working relationship with Northamptonshire Police and we are delighted to be able to support them in this initiative through the provision of our space.”
Becky Bradshaw, Head of Safety, Security & Environment at the University of Northampton, said: “The University is committed to not only ensuring our students and staff are able to enjoy a safe night out in Northampton's town centre, but also the community of Northampton.
“As the University moves to our new Waterside Campus, we will be developing our partnerships with the police, council and people living and working in the town. We know that there will be an influx of people to the town centre both during the day and evening and it has been important to us to help make sure it is a safe place for everyone to enjoy.”
Cllr Anna King, Northampton Borough Council Cabinet member for community safety and engagement, said: “This new facility directly complements our ‘Out Tonight’ campaign which aims to get people to plan ahead. On a night out, it is so easy to perhaps have a drink too many, get separated from friends and have no clue how you are going to get home.
“We urge people to plan ahead, stick together, make sure they book a taxi home before they head out, have a fully charged phone with them and ensure key numbers are saved in it. The centre is there to provide support for when even the best laid plans go awry.”
Stephen Mold, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “We want people to have fun and stay safe on a night out, but if someone is vulnerable, there is now a safe and convenient place where they can be taken to receive support.
“We have been discussing the creation of a space like this with the University for some time and it is good to be working in partnership with the Students' Union to make it a reality. I am grateful that they have made this space available.”
Inspector Rayfield added: “We want everyone to be able to have a safe and enjoyable night out and our presence just outside the Platform aims to support that. However, we would encourage people who are out socialising and enjoying the nightlife, to be aware of their personal safety and remember these few tips to help keep them safe.”
Here are some handy tips on how to stay safe on a night out:
- Plan how you are getting home before you go;
- Taking a taxi? Ideally, book it in advance or take it from the taxi rank;
- Always keep the number of a reliable firm with you and know where the taxi ranks are;
- Avoid minicabs or private-hire cars that tout for business – they should always be pre-booked;
- When the taxi arrives, check it is the one you booked. If in doubt, don't get in;
- Stick with your friends and choose a meeting point where you can wait for each other if you get separated;
- Never accept a lift from a stranger – there are plenty of licensed taxis in our towns;
- 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;
- Stay together and travel together. Don't go off on your own and keep an eye out for your friends;
- It may sound obvious, but avoid walking through unlit areas, such as alleyways or churchyards;
- Keep a charged mobile phone with you and if you get separated, use it to call one another;
- If you notice someone who appears vulnerable, tell someone such as a door supervisor, street pastor or police officer, or call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.