An innovative campaign enabling those who feel vulnerable in pubs and clubs to discreetly approach staff and request assistance is being rolled out across the capital following a successful pilot in a south London borough.
Available at participating venues throughout London, the ‘Ask for Angela’ initiative aims to reduce sexual violence and vulnerability by providing customers with a non-descript phrase they can use to gain assistance from staff members in order to be separated from the company of someone with whom they feel unsafe due to that person’s actions, words or behaviour.
The initiative - originally launched by Lincolnshire County Council - has already proved successful following a Metropolitan Police pilot in Merton borough before Christmas, which has so far seen more than 50% of venues on the borough sign up and continues to grow.
By “asking for Angela”, an individual is alerting staff that they require help. They will be taken aside, or to a safer location, so they can speak in confidence to that staff member about what assistance they need.
Options available to staff include: offering to call a taxi for the individual; contacting their friends or family; or requesting that an individual causing the distress leaves the venue.
Officers from Met Licensing teams will be delivering the posters advertising the service to venues across the capital. They will be placed in the toilets of those establishments, so as to be discreet.
Inspector Wayne Matthews, from the Central Licensing Team, said: “This is a simple yet effective scheme which empowers members of the public to seek help if they are feeling vulnerable, by allowing them to raise their concerns with staff. It may be that they are in the company of someone who is not what they seemed and they want to get away safely and with minimum fuss. This initiative will facilitate this and hopefully prevent situations from escalating into something more serious. Of course where scenarios do develop we know bar staff will contact police to attend the scene and deal in the usual manner.”
Already the pilot in Merton has raised awareness amongst bar staff and encouraged them to look out for potentially vulnerable customers. In turn customers have been reassured that staff are open to offering discreet assistance.
Since the initiative was implemented, there have been incidents on the borough which could have escalated without the intervention of bar staff. Security staff at a Wimbledon nightclub noticed two men plying a lone female with drinks, whilst they remained sober. Believing their intentions to be dishonourable, staff called police. The males were removed from the club. Officers then gave the lone female a lift home to ensure her safety.
Similarly, there was an incident in a bar in Wimbledon whereby a male was “harassing” two females at the bar. One of them looked towards security staff and asked for help. Staff immediately intervened and the male became violent. He was removed from the premises and police were called, with him subsequently arrested for affray. In their statements to police, both females expressed their appreciation in being taken seriously when asking for help.