'City angel' to keep eye on women

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 07:41 06/06/2014

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Young women out on the town in Palmerston North now have their very own "angel" to look out for them.

Natacha O'Brien-Howell is the city's new "Safe City Angel", a role commissioned in the hope of reducing harm and victimisation of young women as a result of excess alcohol consumption.

The project is run by the Safety Advisory Board in conjunction with Police, ACC, Youth One Stop Shop (YOSS), SafeCity Trust and the Palmerston North City Council.

O'Brien-Howell, 24, is studying for a degree in social work and works as a youth worker at YOSS.

As the angel, she accompanies SafeCity hosts and occasionally police officers on Friday and Saturday nights between 10pm and 4am.

Manawatu Police prevention manager Inspector Brett Calkin said O'Brien-Howell would work with young women in particular to make them aware of the harm intoxication can bring, as well as how to stay safe in the city.

"Time and time again we see young people being harmed from drinking too much. You can have a good night out but it's all [about] drinking responsibly and looking after your mates. Know your limits and stick to them. By doing this you protect yourself from harm and can keep an eye on your mates."

O'Brien-Howell began working in the role a few months ago, and is distinctive in a pink fluoro safety vest.

She will typically keep a look out for young women who are clearly intoxicated or look in need of help, and make sure they are safe and provide referrals if they require further assistance, Calkin said.

That could be encouraging a group to stay together, make a plan to get home at the end of the night, or referring people who needed more help to the right place.

So far, she had been very well received. The angel project is on trial for 12 months.

"This is a unique concept and has the potential to reduce alcohol harm and help young women keep themselves safe," Calkin said.

A recent alcohol harm-related survey commissioned by the Palmerston North Safety Advisory Board found nearly half of respondents, both men and women, said they'd had a "negative experience" in town on a Friday or Saturday night.

The most common negative experience was doing something they later regretted.

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- Manawatu Standard

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