Protecting women and girls from violence and crime, particularly during the night-time economy, is a key priority for police in Sussex.

In East Sussex, a scheme launched with a focus on keeping people safe during the night-time economy continues to grow, with additional initiatives being rolled out in recent weeks.

Project WAVE (Wellbeing And Vulnerability Engagement) was introduced at the end of 2021 and saw dedicated teams covering Hastings, Eastbourne, Rother, Lewes and Wealden districts on Friday and Saturday nights. The patrols focus on areas where people have reported feeling unsafe using the StreetSafe app.

The force has now rolled out dedicated Project WAVE cars with livery highlighting Ask For Angela – a national initiative encouraging women to ‘ask for Angela’ at bars, clubs and other licensed premises if they’re feeling unsafe, vulnerable or threatened. The venue’s staff would then look to support by reuniting them with friends, seeing them to a taxi or calling security and/or police.

Chief Superintendent Katy Woolford, divisional commander for East Sussex, said: “Ask for Angela is a discrete way for women to get help if they are feeling unsafe while on a night out, and we were keen to help raise awareness of this initiative by highlighting the information on some of our police cars.

“In doing so, it also helps women and girls identify our dedicated Project WAVE cars. These are cars specifically out patrolling areas where people have reported feeling unsafe in our communities, with officers ready and willing to engage with people who may be feeling vulnerable while out and about in the town centres.

“Our Project WAVE cars also carry personal attack alarms which are handed out by officers to women during the night-time economy. On a weekend earlier this month, more than 100 alarms were given out to women in Eastbourne.

“Everyone has a right to be safe and feel safe, and we are absolutely committed to listening to people’s concerns and doing all we can to protect them.”

As well as the Project WAVE cars, officers are out on foot patrols in identified hotspot locations engaging with the public and licensed premises. This includes officers in plain clothes deployed to specifically look out for, identify and challenge suspicious or concerning behaviour.

Police in East Sussex are also rolling out additional vulnerability training to officers and staff, which will also be offered to all licensed premises in the area. The training will help those working during the night-time economy to better support women and girls and identify areas where steps can be taken to improve public safety.

This month, in partnership with the Eastbourne Business Crime Reduction Partnership, 22 licensed premises have been issued with radios to enable them to directly contact the WAVE car should they have concerns around the safety or vulnerability of people enjoying the night-time economy.

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell, who accompanied officers on their Project WAVE patrols last month, said: “I was really impressed with the work Sussex Police is undertaking in our town to keep women and girls safe especially during the night.

“After several very high-profile national cases of women tragically murdered while out on the streets, it is vitally important women and girls, and indeed everyone, feels safe when they out and this project is targeting those areas where they don’t.

“I also really support and would like to spread the message about the Ask For Angela. This national initiative is encouraging women to ‘ask for Angela’ at bars or clubs so they can get help if they feel unsafe.”

Project WAVE patrols are part of the force’s overall response to tackling violence against women and girls, where activity is based on regular analysis of local crime patterns and feedback fromthe public via the StreetSafe website.

On StreetSafe, anyone can tell the police anonymously about locations in the neighbourhood that make them fele unsafe. All the reports are analysed at a local level and action is taken to adapt patrol patterns, and to consult with local partners on issues such as street lighting and layout.

Sussex PCC, Katy Bourne said: “The public tell me they want every effort made so that women and girls can feel safe on our county’s streets, especially at night.

“Initiatives like Project WAVE and Ask For Angela and the work with licensed premises so that staff can identify vulnerability, should be supported and sustained.

“These programmes combined with the Safer Streets funding that was secured to improve physical security, such as installing CCTV and new street lighting, continue to make a difference to safety on Sussex’s streets.

“Whilst violence against women and girls is unfortunately prevalent, it is also preventable.

“We can also focus on proactive bystander intervention programmes to help men recognise sexual harassment, misogynistic behaviour and call out their peers to do the right thing.”

See here for more information on the work being done to tackle violence against women and girls in Sussex. To report a crime, contact police online or by calling 101. Always dial 999 in an emergency.