Special report: Police issue warning over alcohol-fuelled violence, as Evening News man spends night in the police cells
Alcohol-fuelled pub and club-goers who lose control and commit violence on the streets of Norwich will face the full force of the law, police chiefs warned today.
The stark message comes from Chief Insp Gavin Tempest, below, who is at the forefront of a new drive to target a rise in violent crime linked to Norwich's night-time economy.
He wants those who go out in the city to be able to have an enjoyable but safe night out and said those intent on causing trouble this summer are in for a shock.
'The consequences are that they will get arrested, and for people who commit acts of violence there's a significant penalty – it's quite life-changing for the individual.
'We know how to police this, we've got a sophisticated relationship with people managing the night-time economy and we will catch these people and they will be brought to book.'
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Police figures show there has been a 24pc increase in serious violent offences from April to December 2011, compared to the same period in 2010.
A third of the offences are linked to pubs and clubs, with 80pc on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and almost a quarter in Norwich.
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The city also saw a 27pc increase in all violence offences, including common assault, last year compared to other parts of Norfolk, like King's Lynn and Great Yarmouth which have seen a steady decrease.
The night-time economy in Norwich has become something of a priority for police chiefs who hope to crack down on a rise in alcohol-related offences, particularly during a three-hour period after 3am.
Chief Insp Tempest said: 'We remain concerned at the moment that things are deteriorating at 3am onwards.
'It's got progressively worse and it's got worse since the introduction of the previous licensing laws in November 2005.'
Offences involving serious injuries on the streets at night have gone up 128pc between 2009 and 2012 compared to the 18 months to the middle of 2009.
He said: 'It's gone up from 76 people being injured in that first 18 months to 173 in the second period and that's between 3am and 6am. That late-night period is getting a disproportionate number of crimes – and more serious crimes where people are getting injured.'
A high-profile police operation, dubbed Impact, is being launched to tackle the problem. It sees extra police flooding the city's clubland to help provide a 'blanket of safety' and has been put into practice twice so far this year, in April and last month.
Three times as many officers as normal patrolled the city centre on Saturday, June 30 focusing on Prince of Wales Road, Tombland and Riverside as part of the multi-agency initiative where police, with the city council, SOS Project, Street Pastors and the licensing trade work together to improve safety.
During the operation 12 people were arrested for offences including affray, being drunk and disorderly and breaching banning orders. Police also issued 22 Section 27 notices – an order for a person to leave a designated area for a 48-hour period.
Chief Insp Tempest said: 'It was as busy as New Year's Eve. There would have been a whole lot more arrests and potential violence on such a busy night had we not had the operation. I think it was a huge success.'
The operation is to be repeated in the future but, in the long-term, police chiefs believe the key to reducing violence in the city lies in using legislation and working with licensing authorities to help create a 'gap' between the night-time economy and daytime to reduce problems, particularly between 3am and 6am.
The government wants to impose a late-night levy as part of a proposed overhaul of the Licensing Act aimed at giving councils and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to, any premises causing problems.
Early-morning restriction orders (EMROs) could also see a restriction on the sale of alcohol from midnight to 6am at certain premises.
Chief Insp Tempest said: 'I'm satisfied the consensus is we will succeed in drawing back the hours to what we consider to be a more desirable level.'
He said police would be keen to draw back opening hours so that venues are closed or closing at 4am so everything is finished by 5am.
A Norwich City Council spokesman said it did not expect the new legislation to be available until October or next April.
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Our man finds out what it's like to be arrested
Humiliating, frightening, sobering and life-changing – just some of the words to describe my experience of being 'arrested' in Prince of Wales Road, Norwich.
I had never been arrested and don't plan on doing so again after my mock arrest for a violent offence on in the heart of the city's clubland.
I was acting as a clubber who had been thrown out of a venue after picking a fight inside and flagged down PC Jeremy Brown and PC Sue Pennington to try and remonstrate my innocence and explain that I had been the victim of an attack, not the perpetrator. But my protests overstepped the mark and I was arrested.
Being led away in cuffs is an earth-shattering moment and must be life-changing for anyone – even for those who have had a belly full of beer and were being egged on into stupidity by alcohol-fuelled friends.
We arrived at the high-security gates of the PIC and PC Pennington spoke into an intercom to explain who she had on board. The gates slowly opened and we drove into a secure bay covered by CCTV where I was allowed out of the car, but only after the large hangar-like doors had shut securely behind us.
I was then taken into the PIC and immediately checked for smartwater – a liquid containing a code which can be read using an ultraviolet light which can help track stolen goods or link an offender to a crime scene.
The officers then led me to the confidential booking area where I was processed by the custody sergeant and my details taken.
The cell itself was clean, light and well ventilated with a toilet as well as a low sitting bench/bed.
A blue line around the centre of the wall was about the only thing to focus on apart from the CCTV domes, a window and a life-monitoring gadget embedded in the ceiling of my cell which alarms if there is a problem.
Custody staff later arrived with a hot meal –detainees must be offered three meals a day –which momentarily lifted my spirits as it briefly interupted the loneliness.
It was a truly sobering and eye-opening experience and one which will make me think twice about the consequences of my actions in the future – as it should other people, too.