Police in Stevenage and North Hertfordshire have officially launched Project Vigilant - a national safety initiative that targets perpetrators of sexual predatory behaviour in the night-time economy.

The aim of the project is to identify and intercept those who may be displaying concerning behaviour, to protect the public and prevent sexual offences from occurring.

To achieve this, specially trained plain-clothed and uniformed police officers patrol public areas outside nightclubs, bars and pubs.

The plain-clothed officers integrate themselves among the public and highlight anyone of concern before their uniformed counterparts take action, which may include arrest.

Examples of the predatory behaviour officers are looking out for include sexual comments, inappropriate touching and loitering.

Project Vigilant has now been rolled out in Stevenage, North Herts, St Albans, Watford and East Herts. These areas are the priority as they have the highest night-time economy footfall.

Inspector Nicki Dean, from the Community Safety Unit, said: "Tackling violence against women and girls is a key priority for us in Hertfordshire.

"Project Vigilant is a really important initiative, aimed at identifying sexual predators in the night-time economy and safeguarding potential victims.

"Everyone has a right to feel and be safe when they’re enjoying a night out.

"So far, we have more than 70 officers trained in Project Vigilant across the county.

"The training package includes behavioural detection tuition, where officers are taught a scientific based process used to detect anomalous human behaviour.

"The training gives officers an insight into how sexual predators think and behave and equips them with the tools and knowledge to identify if someone’s behaviour is concerning."

The deployment involves a split of high-visibility uniformed police officers and plain-clothed behavioural detection officers. Plain-clothed officers will be deployed in pairs, and will be assigned a patrol area based on intelligence.

Plain-clothed officers will never approach any members of the public, unless there is an immediate emergency or threat to life. Any suspicious behaviour observed will be reported to their uniformed counterparts, who will engage with the person identified and carry out a structured stop-check, taking action where necessary.

Potential victims will also be engaged with by uniformed officers, who will assess their welfare, record any offences and/or signpost to support resources.