Blackpool Police, in supporting the EMRO, have presented statistics which show violent crime is rising in Blackpool’s main pub and clubland area.
The Emro Cumulative Impact Zone has been drawn up from North Pier in the west, past The Tower in the south and into town as far east as Blackpool North railway station and north to Princess Parade.
This is where the concentration of late licenses are including Club Sanuk and the Funny Girls complex.
Statistics released by the police – in its report on the EMRO – say violent crime in the area has risen (between 11pm and 8am) from 288 incidents in 2010 to 433 in 2012.
Evidence enough to impose the order?
Well those involved in the licensed trade think not, and they have accused the police of presenting crime figures out of context.
They have today pleaded with Blackpool Council’s licensing committee to look at the bigger picture.
Official police statistics, passed to The Gazette by way of a Freedom of Information request, appear to show that ever since the Licensing Act was brought in allowing pubs and clubs to open longer crime has generally fallen.
Violent crime in Blackpool town centre, for instance, has dropped by 62 per cent from its high in 2004 when there were just over 1,000 incidents to 270 in 2010.
This town centre figure does not fully include the whole of Queen Street – dubbed by police in their supporting evidence as ‘Blackpool’s most violent street’.
They say the street has seen an increase in violent night-time incidents from around 125 in 2010 to 180 in 2012.
Other streets within the EMRO zone have also seen increases, police say.
Springfield Road, however, where Sanuk is based has seen incidents drop from a dozen to five last year.
During the same three year period antisocial behaviour has fallen from around 1,100 reported incidents to the police in the 14 streets covered by the proposed EMRO in 2010 to under 800 in 2012.
Well, the position gets even muddier.
The closure of the Syndicate nightclub in 2006, which had historic issues with crime and disorder, has been attributed as one of the factors behind the reduction in violent crime in the town centre .
However, Church Street, where the venue was, is not part of the EMRO zone.
Some critics say to take Church Street out of the statistics does not allow the scale of the reduction in violent crime to be properly highlighted.
The Gazette, this week, asked the police to explain their figures, but they have declined to comment.
Speaking previously to The Gazette, Blackpool’s top police officer Chief Supt Richard Debicki said: “What the evidence tells us is although violent crime has reduced over time across Blackpool, incidents of violence and theft are actually going up in the area which the EMRO zone is proposed.”
Chief Supt Debicki gave a radio interview a few weeks ago where he talked about the unacceptable level of glassings in bars and clubs in Blackpool – despite most venues now using polycarbonate plastic glass.
When The Gazette asked about glass attacks, we were again told no comment could be made.
Peter Bowden, owner of the Sanuk nightclub, said he believed initiatives such as the introduction of polycarbonate glasses at most venues, meant Blackpool was actually now safer.
He has also questioned the ending of such schemes as police-backed Best Bar None, which recognised good practice in the licensed industry, and why police do not use Banning Orders to keep known local troublemakers out of town.
He said: “The police are trying to talk crime up and make Blackpool out to be a dangerous place, but it’s just not true.
“Figures show that in the last few years violent crime has dropped dramatically.
“We should be talking about how safe Blackpool is.
“We don’t want to start putting people off coming to Blackpool by closing early.
“They will go to other towns instead, and so if you have a hotel or are involved in any other area of tourism, you must realise this will decimate the town.
“If Blackpool is the only town in the UK to close early, what message is this sending out? It is a message that Blackpool is not safe.
“According to the consultation documents, we can only talk about licensing issues (at the Licensing Committee hearing in September) but we surely have to talk about the impact this could have on jobs and tourism. It is a much wider issue.
“We are a holiday resort, so these things are important.”
Blackpool’s Pubwatch scheme was this month crowned best in the country at the National Pubwatch Awards 2013 in London.
Blackpool Pubwatch chairman Craig Southall said the national recognition in promoting responsible drinking was proof there is no need for an EMRO.
He said: “By coming first out of 480 Pubwatch groups, we have to be doing things right - we do not feel there is a need for an EMRO, and this award underlines that.”
“The award highlights the fantastic partnership working in Blackpool to reduce incidents and violent crime in and around licenced premises.
“This is reflected in the massive reduction in violent crime over the last 10 years within Blackpool. This is a credit to all Pubwatch members that we as a group have achieved this national prestigious award.”