BT’s 888 phone service to protect women walking home – how it works

Users will download an app that tracks their journey by GPS and sends an alert if they fail to arrive on time

BT has devised an emergency phone service that aims to offer protection to women as they walk home, which has been approved by the home secretary, Priti Patel.

The phone service comes after the killings of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.

How will it work?

Users will be able to download a mobile phone app and enter their home address and other destinations they use regularly.

Before setting off on their journey, they would start the app, which would give the expected journey time and track them via the phone’s GPS system. Alternatively, they can also call or text 888.

A message would be sent to them at the time they were predicted to arrive home. If they failed to respond, emergency contacts would then be called and then the police would be notified.

Where did the idea come from?

According to BT’s chief executive, Philip Jansen, he and his team came up with the system after the killings of Everard and Nessa filled him with “outrage and disgust”.

He told the Daily Mail: “The simple act of walking home is making people feel anxious and at risk.”

BT is responsible for running the 999 emergency phone number.

What has the reaction been to it?

The system has been backed by Patel after being contacted by Jansen. She told the Daily Mail: “This new phone line is exactly the kind of innovative scheme which would be good to get going as soon as we can. I’m now looking at it with my team and liaising with BT.”

Some campaigners have spoken about it deferring the problem on to women rather than tackling the problem of violence against women and girls and a low rate of criminal convictions.

Woman’s Trust, a charity that provides mental health support to women who are victims of domestic violence, said: “Women’s freedoms and rights shouldn’t be quashed to make more room and excuses for male violence. Funding an app while survivors continue to be let down by the health and criminal justice systems is not the answer.”

Police Federation spokesperson Phill Matthews said it could create problems if it created more work for police, but said the body would not be opposed to anything that increased public safety.

How much will the service cost and when could it begin?

The project could cost about £50m, according to PA Media. It could be up and running by Christmas.


Harry Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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