Police officers have described the ‘burden’ of patrolling the drunken streets of Aylesbury town centre at the weekends.
Around seven officers patrol Aylesbury on Friday and Saturday, with their shift officially ending at 4am.
Giving evidence to a consultation on the district council’s licensing policy, officers spoke of how they fear for their safety and of the drain on resources that a minority of drunken louts cause, despite a big reduction in alcohol-based crime in the town over the last few years.
A police sergeant who leads a night-time team, said up until midnight revellers are generally in good spirits, but after venues begin to close from 12.30am ‘a minority start to become aggressive, abusive, disorderly, or incapable to care for themselves.”
He said the ‘latter part of the night is usually the most problematic when the clubs start to close’ and ‘scuffles regularly break out’.
“These can happen at differing locations and there may be only two PCs to respond and deal with each incident.
“It is extremely worrying for me as the team sergeant when this happens in case the officers need assistance and I feel particularly anxious waiting for an update from attending officers to ensure that all is in order.”
He described an incident where he and another officer were in a ‘violent struggle’ with a drunken man who smashed a taxi window and his irate girlfriend.
Fearing for their safety, he activated his emergency button, which caused armed support, dog unit and neighbourhood officers to rush to the scene.
Thankfully the pair suffered only minor injuries.
He added that police dispersal powers often fail as it is ‘extremely difficult to reason with somebody who has been drinking and more often than not the notice fails and the person has to be arrested’.
Another officer, who previously worked for the Met in London ‘found the experience of dealing with Aylesbury’s night time economy a burden’ adding that these shifts are ‘the hardest of my entire five week rota’.
“My colleagues and I quickly become demoralised as you find the same faces causing the same trouble and the same outlets exacerbating the situation.”
A female police officer said Aylesbury’s night-time economy can be ‘somewhat demanding and challenging and makes me as a female officer feel vulnerable’.
Another officer’s main concern centres on fast food outlets, which have become ‘hubs for disorder’ between 3-4am.
He said: “I appreciate they may take more money during this period...but the time and costs involved in policing these venues are considerable.”
The police officers’ comments were made last year in the long-running consultation but were presented as evidence for councillors at this morning’s (Monday’s) AVDC licensing committee.
> So, is Aylesbury getting worse?
No, far from it. In 2009 there were 251 incidents of alcohol-related crime between 10pm and 4am in the town centre while in 2013 this had been reduced to just 78. Earlier this year Aylesbury also retained its Purple Flag award – which recognises a safe town centre that offers a quality night out.
> Where and when does the trouble occur?
Unsurprisingly, Saturday night is busiest. Market Square has by far the most incidents, followed by Kingsbury.