Nightlife in Bratislava has become safer after the city launched the Night Watch last year. Night Watch volunteers patrol streets where people gather and lend a helping hand to those who need help. This particularly goes for anyone who might be vulnerable, but the situation does not require calling the police or paramedics. They assist those who need to be accompanied home, have lost their phone or handbag, or are afraid to wait for the bus alone. With the launching of this non-repressive activity the city follows the example of other cities. The Street Angels patrol in Bradford, the Night Owls in Nottingham, or Nightsafe in York in in United Kingdom, just to mention a few.
“Most of us have found ourselves in a situation where we needed some help,” said Romana Radačiová, as cited by In.ba magazine. Although she is professionally involved in IT, she enrolled last year as a volunteer in the Night Watch service. This year she is one of its coordinators. “I have travelled a lot of the world and found myself in similar situations. That’s why I appreciate this form of helping people who may have not thought through their options.”
Night Watch in 2022
People on the streets received them very well, Radačiová said, when evaluating the first season of Night Watch. Most often they were finding out if people were okay, directing them, answering their questions, or referring them to other services in the city. They assisted people with getting a ride home when they had a glass or two of alcohol more that they could handle, or lost their shoes, for example. Most often they helped young people on Obchodná and Ventúrska Streets in the Old Town.
Last year 16 people showed interest in joining the Night Watch. Of them, six volunteers and two coordinators completed necessary training. They patrolled the streets of Bratislava since July until the end of September, on Friday and Saturday nights from 23:00 until 3:00. At the same time, three city staff members were also trained to provide professional and methodological guidance for the activity, as well as project coordination, also participating in the field service. Thus, 11 people in total helped in the streets of the city, Stanislava Nichtová, from the Department of Prevention and Risk Reduction for Vulnerable Groups at the Bratislava city council, explained for the magazine.
The Night Watch season starts earlier this year
In 2023, volunteers began to patrol the Bratislava streets in May, offering a helping hand to those in need before the end of summer semester at universities. Volunteers passed accredited training in first aid, anti-conflict behaviour, night field assistance, and training on the effects of narcotics on people in April, so they are ready to help on the streets at night.
“We have provided new facilities for the volunteers and expanded the training to include situations the volunteers encountered in the field last year,” said Nichtová. “At the same time, compared to last year, we are offering volunteers the opportunity to complete a volunteer internship with us, which can be very interesting for students of psychology or social work.”