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Police and licensees in Manchester have joined forces in a bid to tackle drink-related crimeWhen crime in the city of Manchester rose by 225 per cent...

Police and licensees in Manchester have joined forces in a bid to tackle drink-related crime

When crime in the city of Manchester rose by 225 per cent over four years it was clear to the local police that something had to be done.

But first they had to look at what had caused crime to escalate so dramatically in the first place. Five years ago, on Saturday June 15 1996, Manchester city centre was bombed by the IRA - a tragedy that caused serious injury to more than 200 shoppers and tremendous damage to 50,000sq metres of retail space.

After the initial shock was overcome, the Government injected more than £20m into rebuilding the city - a move that saw new businesses born including a large number of pubs and bars.

But with this breath of fresh air came a problem that forced police to come up with a new scheme to tackle alcohol-related disorder.

Jan Brown and Garry Shewan, superintendents for Greater Manchester Police and co-ordinators for the new police initiative explained why.

"After the bomb, the capacity for licensed premises shot up by about 250 per cent," Spt Brown said. "This meant that up to 180,000 people were coming into the centre to drink on a Friday or a Saturday night."

Added to this was the fact that the people flooding into the centre to drink in the many pubs and clubs were part of a younger generation and a "binge drinking" culture.

"We have seen a change in drinking culture," Spt Brown said. "People are now drinking to get drunk - it's not a paced drinking culture anymore."

This countrywide problem has driven much of the legislation coming out of the Home Office in the last few years, but politicians and licensees disagree over the most effective way of curbing disorder.

The Government has tended to punish the vendors of the drink rather than the perpetrators of the violence. But, in Manchester it was noted that this was not going to work and a partnership scheme was introduced so that police and licensees could work together to weed out troublemakers.

After establishing that crime had escalated because of a rise in the number of licensed premises, a surge in the number of people visiting the city centre and a changed attitude to drinking, the police set up its "Think Safe, Drink Safe," campaign.

This looked at a number of ways to cut alcohol-related crime and violence by involving all relevant parties - the police, licensees and health and social workers. The police recognised that the image of the city had to be improved especially as it was due to hold the Commonwealth Games in 2002.

The scheme has already enjoyed some success. Since January 2001 crime has fallen by 8.5 per cent - a figure that has delighted both the local police and licensees in the area.

Venues such as Manchester's Spirit Bar have been commended by Greater Manchester Police for working hard to reduce crime and for creating a safer drinking environment.

Ben Fox, restaurant manager at Spirit Bar, said the management had been working closely with the police to ensure that alcohol-related crime and violence was kept to a minimum.

"We have a 10-strong door team who are all badge holders," Mr Fox said. "We are also on the "night-net" system which is the fastest way to keep in touch with staff at other pubs and clubs and the police.

"This really is an excellent system which is linked up to the city's CCTV system and one of these cameras is focused right on the entrance. We also have 12 cameras inside the building."

Via Fossa, a busy city centre bar, was also praised by the taskforce for working closely with the local authorities to curb violence. A spokeswoman for Scottish & Newcastle, which owns the bar, told The Publican Newspaper what the management had done to cut crime in the area.

She said. "We only employ doorstaff that are certified by the city of Manchester and to stop people being hurt by glass we only allow plastic glasses to be taken outside during the summer."

Although the scheme has already seen some success, Spt Shewan admits there is still a long way to go.

The second phase, due to get underway in August, will see posters and billboard advertising erected around the city to help promote safe drinking in and around Manchester, as well as encouraging tourism.

A mini-poll of pubs in the area carried out by The Publican Newspaper, showed licensees are more than happy to continue working with the police. All that remains to be seen is if the second phase is as successful as the first and whether all parties succeed in promoting the city as a safe secure environment.

The first phase

Points that have made the first phase a success according to licensees and the police are:

  • bylaws ensuring people who are caught drinking on the streets are fined up to £1,000
  • more licensees serving drinks in plastic glasses
  • a night-net radio network linked up to the city's CCTV system allowing door staff and the police to communicate with each other
  • doorstaff trained to a national standard
  • all parties working together to improve transport links.

The second phase

Pubs will be asked to display posters that have been designed to:

  • discourage binge drinking
  • alert people to "drink-spiking" - an activity that is said to be on the increase in the city
  • encourage people not to take their glasses or bottles out onto the streets or, if they do so, to discard them into an allocated bin
  • promote the image of Manchester city centre as a safe place to drink.

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