Have dating concerns? Just ask for Angela...Herts police launches initiative designed to help prevent sexual assault

PUBLISHED: 14:26 08 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:47 08 February 2017

Police and venue owners at the launch of the Ask Angela campaign. From left, Detective Sergeant Alex Tyrrell, Bar & Beyond General Manager, Stephen Houghton, Coopers Inn manager Kerry Simmonds, Cromwell food and beverage manager, Rich Cooksley, Inspector Simon Tabert and licencing officer Geoff Potter.

Police and venue owners at the launch of the Ask Angela campaign. From left, Detective Sergeant Alex Tyrrell, Bar & Beyond General Manager, Stephen Houghton, Coopers Inn manager Kerry Simmonds, Cromwell food and beverage manager, Rich Cooksley, Inspector Simon Tabert and licencing officer Geoff Potter.

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Have you ever been stuck on a date that isn't quite working out? You know, that sinking feeling when the person who looks just great in their online dating profile turns out to be just a little too 'crazy' or creepy?

Ask for Angela PosterAsk for Angela Poster

Perhaps they start to act strangely or seem to be trying to ply you with drinks, maybe they make physical contact when it just isn’t the right time, or try to persuade you to go home with them when you’ve made it clear that’s not your intention.

The question is, what should you do in this most awkward – or even dangerous – situation?

You might resort to the old ‘call from a friend’ escape route, but what if your friend is miles away and can’t help you out, or you simply forgot to set it up.

Police in Stevenage are hoping to solve this age old problem and protect people from dates that have gone wrong or the threat of sexual assault – through a pilot of the Ask for Angela scheme.

Ask for Angela poster supporting the Herts Police campaign to keep women safe when on dates PHOTO: Herts PoliceAsk for Angela poster supporting the Herts Police campaign to keep women safe when on dates PHOTO: Herts Police

Posters will be displayed in participating pubs, clubs and restaurants in the town, encouraging people to go to the bar and ‘ask for Angela’ if they feel uncomfortable about a date.

Staff at the venue – who will have been briefed in advance – will respond by helping the person leave the venue and by calling a taxi to make sure they can get into it safely.

Managers from venues in Stevenage went to a police briefing at the town’s police station on Monday to learn about the scheme and to begin setting up an eight-week pilot to see how the idea works in practice. More are being contacted by police outreach teams.

The venues will be given posters to put up on toilet doors to advertise the scheme to customers and, if it proves successful, it could be rolled out across Hertfordshire.

@iizzzzz's tweet about the Ask for Angela campaign went viral, and has been retweeted on Twitter more than 40,000 times. Picture: @iizzzzz@iizzzzz's tweet about the Ask for Angela campaign went viral, and has been retweeted on Twitter more than 40,000 times. Picture: @iizzzzz

Detective Sergeant Alex Tyrrell, from the force’s sexual offences investigation team, said: “With the increase in online dating in recent years, more people are meeting up with people who they have only previously known through a profile on a website.

“Maybe the person isn’t who they said they were or it just doesn’t feel safe – this scheme gives people the confidence to ask for help if they need it.

“It also encourages venue staff to think ahead of time about how they would respond in a situation like this, and to look out for people at their venue who might be vulnerable.”

Venues including Bar & Beyond, The Coopers Inn, the Cromwell Hotel and the Old Post Office pub signed up on Monday, with more to follow.

Kerry Simmonds, who is general manager at the Coopers Inn, said: “It’s a great idea to raise awareness in different environments. Time will tell how it works out.”

Geoff Potter, who is licensing officer at Herts police, added: “This is the police responding to the modern way of dating. These days we live online. It’s about saying that it’s OK to date online, but that if the person isn’t what you thought they were going to be, it just says ‘you can talk to our staff and we get this’.

Mr Potter said the issue applies to men as much as women, and is particularly important for older daters who might not be so used to operating on social media.

For more information on the scheme visit www.herts.police.uk/ask-for-angela.

The launch is part of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week which takes place across the UK this week.

Search #ItsNotOk #ItsNotOk2017 and #BsureB4 on social media to find out more.

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