Bill Donne, honorary secretary at Reading Pubwatch and operator of Smokin’ Billy’s rib restaurant and late-night venue, told The Morning Advertiser that the introduction of mandatory searches after 11pm had been greatly beneficial.
Reading Pubwatch has been encouraging the initiative for a year following an increase in knife crime across southern England. Thames Valley Police recorded 46,311 cases of violence against the person in 2018 - the highest number since records began in 2007 - with knife crime at its highest level since 2011.
According to Donne, searches start at Smokin’ Billy’s when the function of the site switches from restaurant to late-night bar, though some of the city's late-night venues search everyone from the time when they open, he explained.
Donne said the scheme was not the result of a specific incident or threat but an extra precaution given rising crime that Reading operators do not want to see “migrating into the clubs”.
“One of the venues had found a knife on the floor because people in the queue saw that they were searching and disposed of it by dropping it on the floor," he explained. “They couldn't identify who dropped it.”
Donne added: “Since we started searching everyone, we have recovered screwdrivers, a crosspiece, knuckledusters and quite an increased number of drugs.”
The knowledge that everyone entering the site would be searched meant that people were deterred from bringing weapons, drugs and alcohol near the premises, he said.
“From an operators’ point of view, we were seizing small bottles of vodka and goodness knows what coming into the premises because they started checking handbags as well," he explained. “Now we have started I would never go back.”
“I feel more comfortable that nobody is bringing in weapons into my venue, not that it was a particularly high risk, but the fact is knife crime across the UK is on the increase.
“While it's a lot of young people that have been involved, they are tomorrow's customers.”
The city’s Pubwatch was recognised in the National Pubwatch awards this year with a ‘highly commended’ award with judges highlighting its condition of entry initiative.