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On the beat with police pub licensing team
THE Guardian attended a ride along with Northwich’s Special Constabulary Licensing Team to see firsthand how officers are making pubs safer by working alongside local landlords.
Special Constable Mike Harrison works an architectural illustrator by day, but law enforcer by night.
He’s one of many Specials who are an integral part of Cheshire Constabulary – doing a 9 to 5 before spending their evenings giving something back to the community as part of the police force.
Mike, 43, from Northwich, has been a part of licensing visits since they launched in 2010.
In that time, he’s seen how the initiative has worked alongside constabulary schemes like Pubwatch and the multi-agency ArcAngel to reduce antisocial behaviour and criminal activity in licensed premises.
“My other job is a job,” said the 43-year-old. “Doing this, you can see the benefits to the whole community that I live in.
“When I was younger, my parents would go on about problems in the area. I just thought: ‘right then, why not go out and so something that makes a difference for people’?
“The schemes have certainly helped reduce incidents. Staff are better managed, door staff as well.
“If we do a licensing visit and find that there’s rubbish piled against a door, for instance, we can report that to the fire service and council officers. It’s a multi agency approach that really works.”
Michell Vincent, 47, works as a Special Educational Needs teacher, but also gives up her free time to take part in the licensing visits.
She said: “I’m from Winsford originally; I wanted to make a difference to the place I’m from, and you can see the benefits when you out there – the positive outcomes we’re having.
During their operation on Thursday, September 19, officers handed out alcohol awareness packs including handy advice and contacts for publicans, as well as stickers to advise of Under 25 Id check policies.
Landlords were also given anti-tamper bottle tops to prevent drink spiking and police used UV torches to spot hidden security marks within bona fide driving licenses and cocaine wipes on flat surfaces that turn blue to indicate drug use.
Full licensing visits were paid to eight pubs in Northwich and Winsford, checking that landlords were fulfilling the terms of their licenses and keeping a log of barred drinkers, while offering advice.
“There are a number of offences we’re looking out for including underage drinking and staff serving people that are intoxicated,” said Mike.
“It’s actually illegal to serve somebody who’s drunk. All pubs do it, but it’s a good legal reason that we can use if necessary to have somebody removed from a pub if they are causing a nuisance, or if we believe they are going to later in the evening.
“We also look out for any indication of drugs use and pubs not adhering to the premises licence.”
Entering premises, licensing teams divide up to create a ‘dynamic entry’.
“The first officer goes through in and assesses how many officers are needed for the particular premises,” explained Mike.
“Their job is to scan the room. Once that officer is through the door, people might try hiding objects; getting rid of things. They play a very critical part – keeping their eyes open for anything suspect and telling the guys that come in behind.
“Examples include people attempting to hide things in their hands, people disappearing to exists or toilets.
“The second officer in makes a friendly approach to the licensees.”
Jessica Wallace was shift manager for The Queens in Winsford when the licensing team dropped in and welcomed the reassuring aspect of the initiative.
“We have a strict training policy for staff on challenging people who we think might be underage,” she said. “It’s reassuring to have the police making their licensing visits, and good to get their advice and guidance. I think it makes a difference.”
After visits to pubs throughout Winsford and Middlewich, officers returned to fill in Form 400s – intelligence forms that record anything that officers nee to follow up with publicans.
A relatively quiet night for the team was evidence that the work they’re doing has helped drive down incidents of alcohol and drug fuelled antisocial behaviour in pubs throughout Northwich and Winsford – as indicated by Mike’s team being rewarded with a constabulary prize for 2012’s anti-drugs Operation Elbe.
Mike said: “We’ve been doing these visits since 2010 and have built up a good rapport with licensees.
“They realise that we’re not here to catch them out. We’re here to work with them and make their premises safe, and a nice environment for all to enjoy.
“That isn’t to say we don’t deal with any consequences, but we go in and make friendly contact, explain why we’re there.
“We’re there to help people; we’re not there to get their backs up. We don’t want to break down all the hard work and relationships we’ve built so far.”
For more on licensing and pub safety, visit the ‘get involved’ section at www.cheshire.police.uk
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