Last night I spent several hours with the police observing them dealing with the effects of our night time economy.
Getting the balance right between the city centre as a residential neighbourhood and as a night time venue for pubs and clubs is always going to be difficult. But I was particularly interested in seeing how the legislation we passed on Licensing is working out in practice. I met the police who are involved in monitoring the operation of pubs and clubs and was able to discuss and visit hotspot areas.
The city centre team I accompanied were on from 10pm till 4am. Within minutes of our 11.30pm briefing they were called out to deal with an incident outside a nightclub. From then until 4.30am there was a steady stream of calls. Car racers were dealt with and warned off. Teams of officers on the street were backed up by teams in the van who dashed to wherever trouble broke out.
Flash points were clubbers refused entry and people leaving and hanging around in the street. I was impressed by the combination of firmness and sensitivity by police officers trying calm down potentially inflamatory situations. While there were clearly some very drunk people spoiling for a fight the speed with which officers got to potential flashpoints and incidents was striking.
Without intense policing and follow up work to hold premises to account the city centre would be a much rougher place. But I was struck by the observation from the officer in charge that I’d not witnessed a particularly busy night and that as the weather improved the number of incidents would rise exponentially.
I’ll not think of the city centre as an unsafe place, but the large number of people out at night visting pubs and clubs is clearly still providing a lot of work for police, particularly in areas such as Leith Walk, the Grassmarket, the Cowgate, George Street, the West End and Lothian Road. And for residents the disruption seriously reduces people’s quality of life. It’s reaffirmed my view that there are still issues for the Licensing Forum in terms of the community impact of alcohol in the city centre which need to be addressed. Moreover the Licensing Committee needs to keep a strong watch on the pubs and clubs, to ensure effective management is in place.