London police set up Wi-Fi in clubs for rape campaign

This Christmas, the Met will use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hotspots in clubs and bars to serve warning messages to revellers about how drinking to excess makes them more vulnerable to rape

The Metropolitan Police are setting up Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hotspots in London clubs and bars for a Christmas drink and rape awareness campaign that will deliver messages to partygoers' smartphones.

Police Wi-Fi message

Posters in nightspots will urge partygoers to switch on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in order to receive anti-rape warnings. Image credit: Metropolitan Police

Posters placed in venues in Westminster, Camden, Southwark and Lambeth will urge people to turn on connectivity to download the warning messages, the Met said on Friday. The advice includes messages such as "Sex with someone who is asleep or unconscious is rape", and "Drinking too much alcohol can make you more vulnerable to crime — including rape."

"Many people now have and use smartphones and this is just another way to try and get messages direct to the public," a Met spokeswoman told ZDNet UK. "The poster is not alarmist. It simply informs people that police are attempting to send a message to the public and asking mobile phone users to switch on their Wi-Fi capability."

Police anti-rape message

Once connected to the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth hotspots, people will receive anti-rape information notices. Image credit: Metropolitan Police

The campaign "is not about raising the fear of crime, but about creating awareness among the public about how they can help themselves", she added.

Venues including the Ministry of Sound, Proud Galleries, The Trocedero Centre and Infernos nightclub will have police Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hotspots fitted, which will serve the police .gif file. The equipment to serve the messages is being provided by an external contractor.

People who have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled by default will not automatically receive the message, and the equipment serving the message will not allow internet access, according to the Met.

The police could not say whether there is a risk of others setting up fake hotspots to serve malicious programs purporting to be from the authorities. "I can't imagine anyone would go to that bother," said the Met spokeswoman. "It's a very secure line in a very secure area."

In addition to the posters and messages, police officers and police community service officers (PCSOs) will be near the clubs and bars handing out paper copies of the electronic message.

"This concerted prevention drive is about sending a message to perpetrators of rape that sex with someone who is unable to consent is rape," said detective superintendent Jason Ashwood in a statement. "If a person is unconscious or their judgement is impaired by alcohol, they are legally unable to consent."

The awareness campaign is being directed by officers from the Met's 'Sapphire' anti-rape unit.

The Metropolitan Police uses other forms of electronic messaging to communicate with the public. For example, CO11, the public order branch of the Metropolitan Police, has used Twitter to provide public order updates, with mixed effects. CO11 sent a tweet on 11 November saying that people disrupting the Armistice two-minute silence would be "dealt with robustly". A number of Twitter users objected to the Twitter post.

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