Airport-style checks at clubs to combat knife crime and spiking

Metal scanner outside The Loft

Metal detector security checks at The Loft in Rose Lane to combat knife crime and spiking. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Norwich clubs and bars have trialled airport-style security in a bid to tackle knife crime and reports of spiking.

A hi-tech scanner that can detect whether someone is carrying a deadly blade or other metal objects including needles has been used for the first time in the city. 

Metal detector checks at The Loft in Rose Lane.

Metal detector checks at The Loft in Rose Lane. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Thousands of clubbers were screened over the weekend using the portable metal detector to search for people with weapons.

The tool detects a disruption in the electromagnetic field caused by metal and can be adjusted to scan for larger objects like knives down to smaller objects like needles used in spiking attacks.

Security checks outside The Loft.

Clubbers being asked to remove metal objects as part of airport-style security checks outside The Loft. - Credit: Simon Parkin

It is the first time Norfolk police has trialled this type of technology and coincides with Operation Sceptre, a week-long police initiative highlighting the risks of carrying a blade and targeting offenders who use knives.

It follows incidents including one last month in which three people were stabbed outside Bar and Beyond on Prince of Wales Road in the early hours.

Inspector Adam Binns

Inspector Adam Binns with the metal detector being trialled in Norwich. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Inspector Adam Binns said: “Those types of incidents, particularly in Norwich, are thankfully quite rare but they obviously attract a lot of attention. 

“This is about providing that extra reassurance and showing that we are being proactive and preventing things from happening and that should give the public some reassurance.

“It also helps the safety of staff because they are the ones who manage the door at the venues and when there is an incident they are generally the ones to intervene first when that could involve someone with a weapon.”

Popworld on Prince of Wales Road

Popworld on Prince of Wales Road, one of the Norwich venues to trial a hi-tech metal detector. - Credit: Simon Parkin

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The trial has seen the £8,000 portable scanner used at popular clubs Popworld, Truth and The Loft with customers also going through additional bag and clothing searches.

Inspector Binns, who was in charge of the public order operation on Prince of Wales Road on Saturday night, said: “So far we have had positive feedback from the public because the vast majority of people don’t carry knives. 

“What we are dealing with is a tiny minority of people but those carrying knives can cause significant harm.

Police on Prince of Wales Road in Norwich.

Police on Prince of Wales Road in Norwich. - Credit: Simon Parkin

“This gives that added peace of mind for the genuine customers and people who just want to have a good night. 

“This trial will give us some data to work with to assess whether it is ultimately a success. But the venues trailing it have all bought into it and there has been the knock-on that other venues have also stepped up their search procedures.”

Metal scanner outside The Loft in Rose Lane.

Metal scanner using used as part of security checks outside The Loft in Rose Lane. - Credit: SImon Parkin

At The Loft on Rose Lane, where clubbers were queuing before midnight to enter the venue which is open until 5.30am, the scanner had been installed at the door.  

Security staff were asking people to remove metal items before walking past the device that has a red and green light on top to alert staff. 

The airport-style security saw revellers asked to remove even small items like rings but most were understanding of the reason for the extra checks, said assistant manager Danny Thurston.

The Loft assistant manager Danny Thurston and general manager Lee Angell.

The Loft assistant manager Danny Thurston and general manager Lee Angell. - Credit: Simon Parkin

“Everyone has been commenting that it is really good that we are taking things seriously. A lot of them were a bit nervous about going out because of all the stories at the moment but now they have seen this they feel a lot more at ease,” he said.

General manager Lee Angell said the venue had been to trial the system after seeing it in operation in other clubs.

“Anything that we can do to help has to be good,” he said.  “We operate a random search policy anyway but this obviously just makes a world of difference because it allows us to search everybody.”

Norwich nightclub Truth

Norwich nightclub Truth was among those to trial airport-style security in a bid to tackle knife crime and spiking. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Operation Sceptre has also seen people urged to hand over knives without fear of prosecution with items handed in including blades disguised as objects like credit cards and vaping devices.

Inspector Binns said: “That shows how easily blades can be concealed. People who are involved in criminality and want to carry a weapon will try to circumvent stop and search procedures and will adapt everyday items. 

“Measures like this trial will deter them from attempting to bring weapons into venues.”

Police outside The Loft

It is the first time Norfolk police has trialled this type of technology. - Credit: Simon Parkin

‘It’ll make everyone feel safer’

Clubbers queuing to enter The Loft welcomed the extra checks as a way to ensure their night out was safe. 

Nemo Bekele, 18, said: “It’s like what you get at airports so I think people could be used to it. It looks a bit laborious but if it makes everyone safer then I think it’s a good thing. 

“It’ll make everyone feel safer that no one with a knife can get in, although I’ve always felt very safe at The Loft.”

Nemo Bekele, Declan Manlow and Ethan Thomas-Burns

The Loft clubbers Nemo Bekele, Declan Manlow and Ethan Thomas-Burns. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Declan Manlow, 19, said: “I’ve not seen many clubs do this in Norwich, maybe in London, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. It’s reassuring to know they are taking it seriously. It’s worth the extra time it’s taking to get in.

“As a guy I’ve never felt particularly unsafe, but I know that some female clubbers have found things a bit scary recently, not just over knives but also spiking.”  

Ethan Thomas-Burns, 18, added: “If you've got nothing to hide then I don’t see the problem.”