Undercover police officers will mingle with night-time revellers in the weeks leading up to Christmas in a move to keep women and girls safe.
The new initiative has been announced by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin who has secured an extra £202,000 in funding to launch the operation in Wrexham town centre and Flintshire.
The initiative, which is part of the Safety of Women at Night campaign, is the first of its kind in Wales.
The team will be made up of four uniformed officers, two plain clothed officers and a sergeant, with at least one of them being a female officer.
Their job will be to identify vulnerable women and girls and any potential offenders so they can take preventative action.
If they have had too much to drink, the officers will ensure that women and girls are accompanied by somebody responsible so that they get home safely.
Potential offenders will be stopped and searched for any substances that could be used to spike drinks and incapacitate victims.
A taxi marshall scheme will be established with eight registered door staff posted at taxi ranks on Friday and Saturday nights.
The operation will also include a campaign to raise awareness among college and university students.
In addition, a media company will be hired to create a learning package for men and boys to increase understanding about sexual assault, placing the responsibility squarely on the perpetrators.
As part of the drive a short film will be produced and there will also be a training package for parents and guardians.
The extra funding comes on the heels of another bid by Mr Dunbobbin’s team, in conjunction with North Wales Police and Wrexham County Borough Council, to secure £390,000 to reduce the number of offences involving violence against women and girls in Wrexham which was confirmed last month.
Earlier this year he succeeded in getting an additional £500,000 to fund a high tech blitz on crime hotspots in Colwyn Bay and Bangor.
The new campaign to protect party-goers was pioneered by Northumbria Police two years ago.
It means that as the party season kicks off in Wrexham and Flintshire police officers keeping a watchful eye out for signs of trouble and for vulnerable people.
Mr Dunbobbin said: “There have been a worrying number of sexual attacks over recent years that have attracted media attention and thereby rising community tensions and affecting the confidence of women whilst out alone.
“We’re also conscious that people trying to get home after a night out may find it more difficult than usual to find taxis because of a shortage of drivers which could mean they have to wait for longer or may be tempted to try and make their own way.
“We’re determined in North Wales to do all we can to protect people and keep our streets safe at this the busiest time of the year for the night-time economy.
“We want people to be able to enjoy themselves sensibly and above all to get home safely and we believe that putting extra eyes on the streets can make a difference.
“We also believe that the fact that our officers will be in plain clothes means that they will be able to blend in so that anyone with evil intent won’t know if we’re watching.”
The pilot by Northumbria Police on the streets and in the pubs and clubs of one of the UK’s party capitals, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 2019 proved a big success
It was trialled to target predatory offenders and police reported a 30 per cent reduction in rapes and serious sexual assaults in the city centre and earned the force praise from the charity Rape Crisis and survivors of serious sexual offences.
Chief Insp Stephen Wykes, who led the operation in Newcastle, said: “As with any really unique operation we have had to test it and with the figures that we are seeing I would suggest that it is an effective way to operate.”
Mr Dunbobbin added: “There are a number of reasons a person can become vulnerable, including excess alcohol, getting lost, or becoming separated from friends.
“Our officers will be there on the streets and they’ll be on the look-out for the tell-tale signs of vulnerability and also for the kind of predators who might be looking for an opportunity to take advantage of someone.
“They will be on the streets and ready to step in to keep people safe.”