With proposals to ban town centre venues from opening after 3am under discussion, reporter REBECCA DRAPER spent an evening with Blackpool police to see booze-fuelled crime first hand.
When the first thing you’re offered on a night around Blackpool with a police officer is a bullet-proof vest, you know you’re in for a tough evening.
But actually, spending Friday night and the early hours of Saturday morning in an unmarked police car with PC Jamie Robinson couldn’t have been calmer – even with 4,000 young farmers dressed to impress and ready to see what the resort has to offer.
My night began at 11pm, when I was told town was so busy a couple of pubs had already had to close for a short spell to clean up and refresh staff before the evening really started.
It was the first Friday after many people had been paid, the first night of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Club’s annual convention, the first night of the bank holiday weekend, and the first weekend of what could go on to become summer.
But all we encountered was a rowdy young farmer spoiling for a fight, some worse-for-wear revellers who needed help from off the floor and a report of criminal damage.
The young farmer, who was stopped from creating a scene outside the Winter Gardens, was read his rights and arrested for being drunk and disorderly.
He would be released from the cells when he sobered up and given an £80 fine.
And when we hastily arrived at the takeaway, seconds after the call came through, there were no trouble makers in sight, or damage to be seen.
By 2.30am, “PC Rain” made an appearance.
“We like PC Rain,” PC Robinson said.
“When it’s raining, people don’t want to stand outside and pick fights when the clubs are closing, they want to get back home as quickly as possible.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
By 3am, town was dead.
While I’m sure this Friday night isn’t a reflection on every Friday or Saturday night on the town centre, it did give me an insight into the work of the police on a typical night out.
On what should have been a troublesome night for Lancashire Police, very little happened, that I saw, that wouldn’t be expected when large groups of people have one too many.
As publicans oppose plans to introduce the Early Morning Restriction Order, it’s hard to see how the same level of policing can be provided without extra investment, just in case something kicks off.
All police officers for Blackpool Central were in and around the town centre, even as we left at 3.30am.
“No two nights are the same,” PC Robinson said, as she pointed out that as we drove through a quiet town centre someone could be getting stabbed.
“But you have to match the risk for potential issues against the resources available.”
And in those early hours, while there was always a risk something was about to kick off, it didn’t, and there were several high-visibility police officers waiting if it did.
‘Don’t tar us all with the same brush’ say owners
Staff at a soul bar are hitting back at claims Queen Street is the epicentre of Blackpool’s crime.
Police figures, reported in The Gazette, show the stretch of road behind Talbot Square accounted for almost two in every five assaults in the town.
But Martin Wilson, publicity officer from Soul Suite on the street, said the figure shouldn’t be shocking due to the high concentration of town revellers in the area.
“People are coming from the bars on the Promenade to the clubs on Queen Street which are open a lot later,” he said.
“At Soul Suite we cater for a slightly older audience, and our experience of Queen Street is very different. Our people have a few drinks and go home happily and quietly. The issues are pointed more towards the younger people who tend to drink maybe a bottle of wine at home and come out later. They’re ready to party ande the fresh air hits them as soon as they go out.”
He said it was important the whole of Queen Street was not tarred with the same brush. He added: “I’ve spoken to people who believe Blackpool isn’t a place to go out at night, but I couldn’t disagree more.”
Mr Wilson also said it was unfair to label Queen Street so badly, when it was home to some of the resort’s cultural buildings, including the Grundy Art Gallery and Central Library.