A councillor has challenged police pushing for a 3am booze ban in Blackpool by stating crime in the resort “is hardly Sodom and Gomorrah”.
Coun Jim Elmes is part of the Blackpool Council licensing committee which will rule on whether Blackpool will be the first authority in the country to impose an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) – forcing pubs and clubs to close at 3am.
Police officers have told of the pressures they face trying to keep a lid on Blackpool’s late-night drinking culture.
On the second day of a hearing, frontline officers said the amount of drunkenness was getting worse.
And they said dealing with drunks diverted them from responding to calls from residents reporting crimes.
The committee was told by intelligence analyst Tara Lucy that crime within the EMRO area – centred around Queen Street and Springfield Road –were eight times higher than the rest of the resort.
She said the area was also where 61 per cent of violent crime happened and 23 per cent of violent crime was between 3am and 6am; 66 per cent of those arrested were described as drunk; 56 per cent of arrests were made between 11pm and 6am and 15 per cent of arrests were made between 3am and 6am.
Coun Elmes asked whether it would have been more appropriate to use numbers rather than percentages – to give a quantifiable reflection of crime levels.
The Labour member said: “It’s hardly the Sodom and Gomorrah that Blackpool’s being made out to be.” (in reference to the ‘sinful’ Biblical cities)
He added: “102 (violent crimes) that’s less than two a week.”
But Ms Lucy said: “Behind the figures are real people. And we’ve seen there’s a massive resource strain.”
Earlier police officers and local hoteliers were called to talk about their experiences on the streets at night.
PC Jamie Robinson said: “I find I am standing with a young girl in a doorway and they are so drunk, they don’t know where they need to go, and they’ve lost their shoes and their bag.
“I am trying to stay with someone, and then a fight breaks out somewhere else.
“Some people don’t want to go to hospital – someone even once had their ear bitten off and they didn’t want to go to hospital.
“You hear over the radio about burglaries being reported in your ward, and I hate the thought of letting down residents because I’m dealing with drunken people who have fallen out of a nightclub.”
She said trying to separate a fight “can often take several officers”, and when crowds gather, officers can find themselves surrounded.
PC Robinson added officers “are often stretched to cope”.
Another frontline officer PC Matt Hornby said: “There is no let up. We are being deployed constantly to pockets of disorder around Dickson Road and Queen Street.”
Pub and club owners maintain the EMRO is more to do with police managing their over-stretched resources – in face of budget cuts – rather than tackling real issues with alcohol abuse.
And they have warned it could cost jobs and businesses to close down.
But Chief Ian Mills said: “There’s a real sense of fear in Blackpool and it’s undoubtedly linked to the extended alcohol licensing. There’s not one professional that doesn’t recognise the problems the later opening hours are having across the board.”
Acting Inspector Caroline Hannon said drunkenness and inappropriate sexual behaviour was prevalent in the town centre. She also said officers had been attacked by drunks.
Acting Insp Hannon added: “If we continue to serve them all night, they drink and drink until they collapse.
“Let’s stop the alcohol at 3am and look at getting trade early evening, for example by doing deals on food and getting the families back.”
Early morning town centre workers also told how they were fed up with confronting drunks.
Marks & Spencer sales assistant Gillian Croston recounted witnessing fights on the way into work, while Simon Cooper, who works at the Edward Street sorting office, said he had been intimidated by groups of abusive men.
Earlier in the day one hotelier told how moving to Blackpool to set up a B&B was “the worst decision I’ve ever made”.
Neil Shephard, who runs a B&B on North Street, said: “There’s shouting, screaming, swearing and lewd behaviour. It’s destroying Blackpool’s tourism, families don’t want to stay over because they’re intimidated by it.”
The hearing is expected to last all week.