Keeping Harrogate town centre safe this Christmas

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The lead up to Christmas and New Year is the busiest time of year for police as bars, nightclubs and restaurants are packed with often drunken revellers. Advertiser reporter LAURA HILL joined police patrolling Harrogate town centre on a Friday night to see the impact of the night-time economy, accompanying PC Graham Frostick and new recruit PC Thomas Ibbetson.

Harrogate Police often has a visible police presence on Friday and Saturday nights in the town centre. Harrogate Town Sgt PC Tom Jackson said: “A visible presence is something we will always try to achieve.”

He added: “We have an overlap of staffing on those nights with one shift continuing until 2am or 3am and another starting at 10pm so there are more officers available at that potentially busy time.”

PC Frostick and PC Ibbetson started their shift at 10pm and for most of the night they were focussed around the streets with bars, clubs and taxi ranks including Parliament Street, the Ginnel and Cambridge Road.

The officers covering the town centre do not have a set route to drive or area to monitor. Although the police use the National Intelligence Model (Nim) which highlights crime hot spots, Harrogate police officers use their own knowledge of the town centre and recent activities.

PC Frostick said: “We rely on our own local knowledge of the area.

“I know the town centre well and this helps us to anticipate where any problems are.”

“We try to be where we need to be, but we haven’t got the resources to be everywhere at once so we have got to have that knowledge.”

While out and about PC Frostick stops to speak to dozens of people, from the door staff to the street pastors and some of the night time revellers.

He said: “Building that rapport with people is really important.

He added: “You can count the number of crimes you have prevented by intervening, or the number of crimes you have arrested people for.

“But you can’t tell how many crimes you have prevented just by being there. Just by someone seeing there is a police officer in the town and not doing what they were going to do.

“Visible policing can act as a deterrent.”

The police work closely with the CCTV operators and door staff, keeping in contact with them throughout the night.

PC Frostick said: “Many of the door staff in Harrogate have been doing it for years.

“We are quite lucky with the door staff in town and we have good relationships with lots of them.

“We have to work closely with them so it is good to have that working relationship.

“We rely on their help. Where there are incidents of disorder they do their part in helping us and the public by preventing injury and giving us information.”

Through the pub watch scheme North Yorkshire Police let venues know the names of people who have been known to cause problems or act violently when drunk and show their pictures to door staff.

PC Frostick said: “It is at their discretion if they let them in or not, not ours. We won’t tell them not to - that’s their decision.”

However it is clear that the venues pay attention to the police officers when they issue warnings about people.

After a door staff member refused two young men who didn’t have ID entry to her bar, she radioed the other venues to let them know they were possibly underage and give them a heads up that they might try to get into another bar.

PC Frostick picked up on this and when he saw the men in question stopped to tell them: “You might as well just go home, no where in town is going to let you in without ID now.”

He said: “The communication systems between the bars is really great, they all trust each other and let each other, and us, know what’s going on.”

On the night I spent with the police one man was arrested after an apparent scuffle on the Ginnel just off Parliament Street.

A bouncer at nearby club, Rehab witnessed the incident and got straight on the radio to police while the CCTV operators kept track of the alleged attacker, directing PC Frostick to him.

He was arrested and put in the back of the police van while PC Frostick and PC Tom Ibbetson established what had happened.

Before the police officers can start speaking to witnesses they were approached by a young man who was bleeding from the mouth and appeared to be extremely drunk.

Unable to stand up straight or speak coherently PC Frostick and PC Ibbotson spend around 15 minutes dealing with the man.

After eventually establishing his name and address he is taken home in a second police van.

PC Frostick explained: “We can’t just leave him staggering around in a state like that, his injuries didn’t need medical attention but we have a duty of care and needed to get him off the streets and home.”

Within minutes a call comes through from the second police car saying that the young man has been taken home to his mother and PC Frostick and PC Ibbotson return their attention to the alleged assault at The Ginnel.

With the alleged attacker still in the back of the police van the police speak to the victim and eye witnesses.

Friends of the alleged attacker wait anxiously by the police van to find out what will happen to their drinking buddy.

“It’s not a good way to end a night out, seeing your mate getting put in the back of the van,” said one of them.

The incident appears to be a drunken play fight gone wrong and the victim tells police he doesn’t want to press charges before heading back into a nightclub to finish his night out.

And the police head back up to the station to write up their reports.

On the way back to the station PC Frostick emphasised that Harrogate is a safe place for a night out.

He said: “We don’t have a massive amount of alcohol related crime in Harrogate town centre. It is still mostly nice people out having a good time with no problems.”