Will late night levy work in Colchester?

Essex County Standard: Police try to diffuse a situation in Colchester town centre Police try to diffuse a situation in Colchester town centre

THE night-time economy is big business in Colchester, bringing in millions of pounds every year.

But the town has an image problem caused by drunken revellers enjoying drinks a bit too much and lapsing into anti-social behaviour.

With cuts taking their toll on Essex Police, officers can only do so much.

And shows such as Bouncers have only highlighted the problem further.

A night of action was held in Colchester town centre - the second of the year.

More than 70 officers took to the streets on Saturday night to prevent crime and challenge those breaking the law.

Colchester councillors joined in the action with many trying to work out how proposals for a light-night levy on bars and clubs would benefit the town.

I was also invited along to see the challenges facing officers.

Following a briefing at Colchester Police Station, we were each assigned a team and sent out on patrol.

It was not only officers and divisions from Essex Police involved. The British Transport Police, Royal Military Police, health workers from Anglian Community Enterprise and even a private group out to catch litterers were out and about.

We had only just got in the patrol car when our unit was diverted away from the town centre.

A fight had broken out at the Weston Homes Community Stadium where a cagefight competition was going on.

Catapulted along, blues and twos roaring, Sgt Ian Banks navigated the streets of Mile End at high speeds.

Pulling up at the stadium, the officers dived out and immediately chased across the fields to find two men who had allegedly attacked door staff who had refused them re-entry for being drunk.

Chief Inspector Richard Phillibrown led the chase, locating the offenders crossing the busy A12.

After speaking to stadium staff and calming down the situation we were diverted back to the town centre.

It was only 10pm but it was already busy.

Taxis were rolling up with people who had already been drinking.

By 11pm, some were already being given orders to leave the area for the night.

One 18-year-old was given a lift by officers in the direction of his home only to be found minutes later back in the town centre.

No excuses, he was slapped in handcuffs and dropped at the front door of his house where his none-too-pleased mum was woken up to be faced by officers escorting her intoxicated son.

It is a tactic which officers say brings results.

Chief Insp Phillibrown said: “Taking these people into custody can mean a long wait and taking officers off the streets where they're needed.

“Instead that young man will have to face what's waiting for him at home.”

Sure enough by 11.30pm, the cells were already filling up.

There are 17 cells at Colchester Police Station and ten were already taken.

In one, a determined young man banged his foot against the door repeatedly for three hours.

For the rest of the night, officers were deployed to all the busy nightclubs, checking licences and stopping fights from breaking out as drinkers went from one club to the next.

When calls come in about a possible domestic on East Hill, three officers take off at a run.

Most of the night's calls concern public order offences, drunk people urinating in the streets and arguments getting out of hand.

Thanks to officers being on every corner, none got out of hand especially at 3am when the last clubs called time sending hoards of revellers onto Queen Street.

The extra police on the beat had an impact in reducing crime.

This is what Colchester councillors want but with funding being axed they are having to look to new ways of providing the finances for such a task.

A light-night levy is the latest suggestion – making pubs and clubs pay an extra charge to provide more policing.

Colchester's Conservatives are behind the proposal and councillors Tim Young, leader of the town's Labour group, and Nick Barlow, leader of the Lib Dems, reveals they too aren't against the idea.

Both said they want to make sure such a proposal would be workable and also would bring in benefits to Colchester.

Will Quince, leader of Conservatives on Colchester Council, said: “I think tonight has shown exactly what a light-night levy could do for Colchester. It has proven the case.

“If the money raised from the levy could be ringfenced for Colchester, then it could be spent on getting more officers on the streets and making it safer for everyone.”

I certainly can't argue. More officers is the answer.

The route to getting them may be more complicated.

Comments (4)

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9:29am Thu 5 Dec 13

Bert_Stimpson says...

Great picture caption. It's defuse not diffuse.

No, a late night levy will not work because it is difficult to legally enforce and unless you have buy-in from 100% of the establishments, it only takes a few to say no and everyone else will be forced to follow suit.
Great picture caption. It's defuse not diffuse. No, a late night levy will not work because it is difficult to legally enforce and unless you have buy-in from 100% of the establishments, it only takes a few to say no and everyone else will be forced to follow suit. Bert_Stimpson

10:25am Thu 5 Dec 13

Mind your own business says...

Yes it would work!
Yes it would work! Mind your own business

11:12am Thu 5 Dec 13

Say It As It Is OK? says...

Who proof reads these reports?
Twice saying a light-night when it should be late night! And who wrote this, they talk about being involved, but who are you?

Being let off and then given a ride home by the police, saving on taxi fares is not the answer and a late night levy on clubs and pubs won't get off the ground, it's just hot air from councillors! This report confirms the problems are not just around the town centre but extend as far out as the football stadium so any levy would have to apply to all licensed premises.

We live in a strange world where do gooders are more interested in the human rights of those causing the problems, rather than properly dealing those who break the law. Of course our weak national politicians don't help. MPs can make it happen but few will stand up and insist that those breaking laws are rigidly and severely dealt with by increasing the penalties on offenders. In reality nothing will change, will most probably get worse and we will be saying the same thing in years to come.
Who proof reads these reports? Twice saying a light-night when it should be late night! And who wrote this, they talk about being involved, but who are you? Being let off and then given a ride home by the police, saving on taxi fares is not the answer and a late night levy on clubs and pubs won't get off the ground, it's just hot air from councillors! This report confirms the problems are not just around the town centre but extend as far out as the football stadium so any levy would have to apply to all licensed premises. We live in a strange world where do gooders are more interested in the human rights of those causing the problems, rather than properly dealing those who break the law. Of course our weak national politicians don't help. MPs can make it happen but few will stand up and insist that those breaking laws are rigidly and severely dealt with by increasing the penalties on offenders. In reality nothing will change, will most probably get worse and we will be saying the same thing in years to come. Say It As It Is OK?

7:51pm Thu 5 Dec 13

No! I am Spartacus says...

Frankly, a nonsense idea that just smacks of a

Why not build a block of 50 cubicles outside the current police station- no need for them to be spacious- and apply the following:
1) Note drunken imbecile breaking law
2) Handcuff them
3) Take to cubicle
4) Leave them there till morning
5) Reduce triplicated paperwork for police to fill in so police aren't delayed with bureaucracy
6) In morning, release.
7) For those offending a second time within a year, 50 hours community service

Alternatively, we already have a law that could also remove some of this issue:
'Section 141 makes it an offence to sell or attempt to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk, or to allow alcohol to be sold to such a person on relevant premises. '
- I'm pretty sure that, if the police were funded to pursue this over a sustained period, establishments might learn to not break the law themselves?

In essence, this levy just smacks of another desperate attempt to tax, which initially might be filtered to the police, but then forgotten and diverted elsewhere..... as always.
Frankly, a nonsense idea that just smacks of a Why not build a block of 50 cubicles outside the current police station- no need for them to be spacious- and apply the following: 1) Note drunken imbecile breaking law 2) Handcuff them 3) Take to cubicle 4) Leave them there till morning 5) Reduce triplicated paperwork for police to fill in so police aren't delayed with bureaucracy 6) In morning, release. 7) For those offending a second time within a year, 50 hours community service Alternatively, we already have a law that could also remove some of this issue: 'Section 141 makes it an offence to sell or attempt to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk, or to allow alcohol to be sold to such a person on relevant premises. ' - I'm pretty sure that, if the police were funded to pursue this over a sustained period, establishments might learn to not break the law themselves? In essence, this levy just smacks of another desperate attempt to tax, which initially might be filtered to the police, but then forgotten and diverted elsewhere..... as always. No! I am Spartacus

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