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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Valentine’s weekend: Don’t ignore the red flags!

Valentine’s Day, 14th February, marks a day to celebrate love, with people across Northern Ireland heading out this weekend in the hopes of finding the ‘one’. The Police Service of Northern Ireland want everyone to have an enjoyable time but are asking those preparing to meet someone face to face for the first time to trust their gut – don’t ignore the red flags.


Officers are reminding people of the steps they can take to ensure their safety and urging people to report any suspicious or concerning behaviour.


Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher said:

“Whilst the majority of people using online dating sites and apps are doing so with honest intentions, our experiences show us there are people on there who may not be who they say they are or who display sexual predatory behaviour.


“With people heading out this weekend to celebrate Valentine’s we are likely to see an increase in people meeting someone they have been chatting to online, in person for the first time and we want to ensure they do this safely.


“If you are making the decision to meet somebody for the first time face to face, make sure to meet in a public place, make friends and family aware of this meeting and your location and don’t be afraid to raise the alarm if something doesn’t feel right.


“People’s safety is of paramount importance to us so we are keen to hear from anyone this weekend and beyond who is concerned about the behaviour of someone they are talking to or have met online. We take reports like this incredibly seriously and will carry out a robust investigation to relentlessly pursue perpetrators.


“We will also have officers out and about on patrol in high footfall areas looking out for predatory behaviours and safeguarding those presenting as vulnerable.”


On 2nd December 2022, during a busy Christmas period, the Police Service launched ‘Ask for Angela’.

Now, just ten weeks on, the number of local businesses participating has more than doubled with nearly 300 signed up.


Working with partners in the Hospitality Sector, Police will continue in their promotions of this initiative on the run up to and during Valentine’s Day to make people aware that help is available in supporting venues across Northern Ireland.


By asking for ‘Angela’, a person who may be feeling uncomfortable on a date or feel unsafe within a licensed venue can quickly alert staff. They can then help reunite them with a person they trust, make sure they get into a taxi safely, call security to remove who is causing distress, or contact police.


Police are urging even more local venues to sign up to this safeguarding initiative.

Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher added:

“Neighbourhood Policing Teams are out and about at this time, encouraging as many local businesses as possible to sign up. We know our hospitality sector is already committed to keeping people safe, by signing up to this scheme they are making a public pledge to help and support their customers when they need them the most.


“We have also just marked National Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, where we revealed that last year 4,135 people reported sexual violence and abuse. 338 of which, happened in online spaces like some of the popular online dating platforms and other chat apps.


“People are not always who they say they are and not everything online is as it seems in reality. We are asking local venues, that haven’t already, to register and access the ‘Ask for Angela’ training so they can support customers who may need their help.”


Local venues are being asked to register for the scheme via the Hospitality Ulster website here. You do not need to be a member of Hospitality Ulster to access the training:


Joel Neill, Operations Director of Hospitality Ulster said:

“Northern Ireland’s hospitality industry prides itself on being a safe place to enjoy a day or night out. However, we can’t ignore the fact that sometimes people need help. It is vitally important that we continue in our efforts to safeguard everyone who comes through our doors.


“Ask for Angela is a great tool for hospitality businesses in their ongoing efforts to do just that; empowering anyone who visits to be able to discreetly get the assistance they need through the use of a simple code phrase.”


“We encourage any business who hasn’t signed up yet to visit our website and register to access the fantastic and straightforward staff training on offer. If it helps even one person, it is more than worthwhile.”


A map of local venues signed up to the scheme already can be found on the Police Service’s website here and will be kept updated as more sign up:


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