Sussex police and crime commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne has called on independent retailers to sign up to the region’s new safe-space app, designed to give vulnerable women and girls places to enter quickly when in danger. 

More than 150 retailers have signed up to the free Safe Havens app, which launched a few weeks ago and enables users to send their GPS locations to nominated contacts and make reports directly to the police. It also shows the closest, safest businesses for them to seek refuge in. 

Bourne told betterRetailing businesses who sign up are given training on how to deal with a vulnerable person if they enter the premises to ensure they are kept safe. “There is an accreditation process outlets have to secure before being awarded the status,” she said. 

“We give them trauma-informed training so that staff know what to do if someone comes in from the street and says they saw them on the app. “It’s all about assessing whether there is immediate risk, and then assessing why they feel at risk and taking the right steps to minimise that, whether it is contacting the police, or helping them contact someone they know to be picked up.” 

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Boots and Starbucks are just a few of the many chains already signed up, but Bourne confirmed convenience stores have expressed an interest in taking part. “There is a lot of interest from independent businesses who feel as though they have a duty of care for their customers,” she said. 

“A lot of independent shops are open 24 hours of the day, so they are ideal locations for women and young girls to seek safety.” In response, The Fed‘s national president, Narinder Randhawa, said: “Independent retailers have an important place in their local communities, so there is definitely a part we can play in this. 

“The Fed is keen to meet with Katy Bourne to hear details as to how it will work. I will be encouraging members in Sussex to nominate themselves.” Bourne also confirmed her intention is to roll out the app nationwide, so everyone has access to the same opportunity. From wider conversations about the progress of the app in Sussex’s Safer Streets Fund, which comprises a variety of businesses in the area, Bourne revealed store owners are wanting to do more to protect vulnerable members of staff. 

“Businesses were keen to find out how to keep their staff safe, to and from work,” she said. “I want to understand from a policies point of view how many employers would know how to deal with a case of domestic abuse involving a team member, and whether they have a HR process in place for that.

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The Safe Havens app can be found here