Police deal with 24-hour drinking

WHEN 24-hour drinking laws came into effect in November 2005 there was widespread concern it would lead to an increase in alcohol-fuelled violence and a rise in the binge drinking culture.

WHEN 24-hour drinking laws came into effect in November 2005 there was widespread concern it would lead to an increase in alcohol-fuelled violence and a rise in the binge drinking culture.

A government review of the law earlier this year found a mixed picture of their impact with crime and alcohol consumption down overall.

And while some areas of the UK struggle to control the rise of the binge drinking generation and the crime that goes with it, police in Great Yarmouth say the town has coped well with the change in licensing laws reporting no increase in the number of call-outs on weekends.

Several premises on Yarmouth's seafront operate late licenses including the Long Bar which opens until 6am at weekends and the Pier Tavern, which opens until 4am.

Police superintendent for the eastern area Jo Parrett said the service had actually seen a drop in violent crime in the area in total, adding that strong links with licensees and landlords had resulted in the smooth running of 24-hour drinking.

The most noticeable difference was an increase in call-outs between 2am and 5am.

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She said: “On the whole the majority of licensees and landlords are responsible and work well with us and on the whole the public have behaved well.

“We deal positively with any type of anti-social behaviour and people should expect to have restrictions placed on them if they misbehave.”

Supt Parrett said one of the successes for the night-time economy was Nightsafe - a scheme operated by pubs and clubs which bans troublesome revellers from dozens of establishments and not just the premises they cause trouble in.

“People could find they are not allowed in licensed premises so when their friends are out having fun they are stuck at home,” she said.

Police resources are increased in the summer months and tackling issues related to the night-time economy isn't simply sending officers out on patrols ensuring there is a visual presence on the street as Supt Parrett explained.

“Depending on intelligence we receive there are a number of tactics used such as drugs dogs, and plain clothed officers. Just because uniformed officers are not about it doesn't mean your behaviour is not being watched.”

And while Supt Parrett applauded the behaviour of the majority of licensees and landlords she warned them not to become complacent.

“Licensees who choose not to follow the law, whether by serving people underage or allowing bad behaviour, can expect a visit from us, and we will not be afraid to use our powers to close you down on the spot if it is in the public interest.”

South Yarmouth's Insp Danny Kett said police had forged “good relationships” with licensees and landlords which meant staff in pubs and clubs would not hesitate to call police at the first sign of trouble.

“As they sense trouble starting we will get a call,” he said. “That's what we want. It's about nipping it in the bud before an incident gets out of control.”

While police receive “several” calls to the seafront to deal with small incidents, Insp Kett said the service welcomed them as it meant officers could control incidents before they escalated into something bigger such as a “nasty assault”.

He said police had also tackled other issues related to the night-time economy including criminal damage in areas behind the seafront.

“The seafront is heavily covered by CCTV which allows us to filter staff into areas where the CCTV does not cover, for example areas behind the seafront. So if someone is not allowed entry to a pub and wants to take it out on a car they will think twice if there is a police presence. However, if there is an incident on the seafront staff can get there quickly.”

He said Yarmouth was a “very safe place to be” at the weekends thanks to a “pro-active policing” which had changed over the last five years.

“People are still leaving premises now at 6am, whereas before people would leave at 2am.

“Before the change in licensing laws you had a clear migration of people from pubs to clubs and at closing time you would have thousands of people on the streets at the same time and crime would usually peak at that time. Now we don't have that.”

Insp Kett added one of the biggest problems at weekends was handbag thefts and urged pub and clubgoers to keep their possessions with them at all times.

And Supt Parrett had a stern message to late-night revellers who caused trouble - saying they would be caught and prosecuted.

“Not only will you have a conviction for violence but that could affect your job and you will have to deal with the repercussions of that.

“You also risk being barred from premises.”