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BTP reveals procurement plans for women's travel safety app

BTP has begun sifting through bids to develop a travel safety app aimed at women and girls.

A phone app for women and girls to report crimes is being developed by British Transport Police.

The app, would could be launched as early as Spring next year, will enable offences to be reported where they happen direct from the victims’ mobile phones.

As well as sharing location and evidence, the app will be able to alert family and friends that the user needs assistance.

After an incident the app will also provide access to guidance, support and signpost users to charities and other agencies.

It will also share campaign messages back to the user.

And the use of geo-tracking will help officers discover patterns of offending earlier.

BTP has been planning the app for months but has only got the go ahead after being awarded £550,000 by the Home Office as part of the third wave of Safer Streets Funding.

The force said: “Sexual Offences and Violence against women and girls (VAWG) are high on the political and social agenda and are a priority for the UK Government, National Police Chief’s Council and BTP alike.

“Following extensive consultation with key stakeholders including the Rail Industry, charity sector and academia as a part of the Sexual Offences and VAWG Strategy, the need for enhanced methods of reporting these offences was identified,” it added.

“It was determined that a safer travel App/platform needed to be developed.”

The force wants to rapidly increase the number of incidents reported; it revealed less than 10% of survivors of sexual offences and VAWG report to the police.

Several blockers have been identified including knowledge around how and when to report.

The force is now assessing bids from developers who want the contract to create it.

But they were warned before submitting their entries that the project is “a unique, but very challenging opportunity”.

The specification is for the app to be accessible from multiple devices using responsive techniques. It must be compatible with IOS and Android and include geo-technology capabilities to support locating the offence.

In effect, it will become a national reporting tool as the BTP is the only force covering England, Wales and Scotland.

The force said: “Challenges with the current technical infrastructure do not allow all methods of reporting, this technological solution must bridge that gap and provide a seamless link into BTP’s existing text reporting service and the Single Online Home crime reporting service.”

The launch will be the first major initiative by the force’s new Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi who took over in March.

And the work has come at the same time as the Cabinet Office announced plans for a fresh push to get more people to connect with public agencies online, partly due to the increase in mobile use during COVID-19.

BTP was clear developers would be facing a tough customer: “There has been limited engagement with the market, however, BTP have engaged with Home office Police forces to try to assist our understanding of what the market can provide.”

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