Undercover police may patrol nightclubs and bars in England and Wales as part of new plans set out by the government to identify and prevent predatory behaviour against women, The Guardian reports.

As part of a programme laid out by the government today, titled “Project Vigilant”, pilot schemes will be put in place which could see plainclothes police officers stationed around nightclubs and bars, as well as increased ununiformed police presence outside clubs at closing time. 

Speaking of the plans, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Ultimately, we must drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to better protect and defend them.”

The announcement comes as part of a government bid to improve safety for women in the wake of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard in South London earlier this month (March). A London Met Police officer has been arrested and charged with Everard’s murder.

Additional measures announced include the doubling of the Safer Streets fund to £45 million, which will be used to provide neighbourhoods with increased and improved street lighting and CCTV.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 earlier today (16th March), Labour MP Stella Creasy said that, while she would not oppose the decisions and that improvements to street lighting is welcome, the decision “really just doesn’t understand what the issues are”.

“Sarah Everard was not on a night out, so the idea that putting plainclothes police officers in nightclubs is going to solve this problem doesn’t recognise that women get abused, assaulted, intimidated in all sorts of places,” she said. 

“Ask women who’ve gone for a run recently in broad daylight in their parks about their experiences and you’ll realise some of the scale of the challenge. And what strikes me is that 80% of women report being sexually harassed in public spaces but, in those surveys, 90% of them say they never report it because they don’t believe anything will change.”

Creasy has called for misogyny to be recorded as a hate crime, “so that existing crimes like sexual harassment, abuse and intimidation can be reported and recorded as such, so we can build up patterns of where the problems are to help the police with the way in which they investigate these issues”.

Creasy’s concerns are shared by UK non-profit Good Night Out Campaign, which has been campaigning for safer nightlife since 2014, and has worked alongside promoters, venues and others to tackle the issue of sexual assault in clubs. In a statement shared to social media, the campaign described the move to have undercover police patrol nightclubs as “a knee-jerk response to be seen to be ‘taking action’ with ill-thought through policy…

“People already find it hard to report concerns to clearly identifiable staff and security because of fear of not being believed,” Good Night Out Campaign’s statement continued. “The presence of plain clothed officers won’t challenge male entitlement or increase reporting???”

“There is an ongoing UK public enquiry into abusive practices in undercover policing and it’s known that at least 20 officers deceived women into intimate sexual relationships, including fathering children with them.

“The government must listen to the experts in nightlife safety and the women’s sector on the drivers of gendered violence and how to tackle this. Real cultural change comes through workplace training, policies, publicity, customer education and community building.”

Read Good Night Out Campaign’s full statement below.