Investigation: Facing up to the tide of drink-fuelled aggro in our town
- Credit: Archant
Thousands of revellers flock to Ipswich’s bars and clubs every weekend. But while the majority enjoy a fun and trouble-free evening, the behaviour of a significant minority drains police resources, clogs up the justice system and puts pressure on our hospitals. Reporter Matt Stott spent Saturday night on patrol with officers to witness the scale of the problem.
It’s 10.55pm on Saturday in Ipswich town centre – shoppers have made way for young revellers.
They steam past, eager-eyed and heavy-footed, drinks in hand.
Suffolk Constabulary are out on the streets as part of an In Focus: Alcohol Harm initiative to highlight the realities faced by frontline officers forced to deal with booze-fuelled quarrels and drunkeness.
It comes amid growing calls from Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, police officers and town centre bouncers to abolish cheap booze deals at the town’s off-licences to tackle Ipswich’s “binge-drinking society”.
Last year Suffolk police, backed by The Star, launched the Reduce The Strength campaign, to banish the curse of cheap super-strength drinks.
In April the force reported the action had resulted in a 50% fall in reports of anti-social behaviour.
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But figures revealed in June the number of drink-related hospital admissions in Ipswich surged by 75% between 2002/03 and 2011/12. A single drunk will take up the time of 17 officers and staff, superintendent Jon Dodman said.
There are around 15 officers patrolling the town centre at any one time and a police van carries out a constant 10-minute loop, covering the major hotspots.
On Saturday Pc Matt Breeze was the acting sergeant on duty.
At 11.30pm he tells The Star his officers are dealing with two incidents – a man disputing a bar bill at The Swan and another who made an inappropriate gesture to a woman in New York Exchange Bar.
Reports of a brawl come in. Officers spring into action, sprinting to Tacket Street but the fight has broken up. A fracas outside a kebab takeaway is spotted.
Elsewhere three policemen are stationed outside Groove. A man has been issued with a Section 27 direction to leave notice – an eight-hour town centre curfew.
The officer explains he will describe the man’s appearance to CCTV staff so his movements can be tracked.
By 12.20am officers are back at base outside Vodka Revolution. A 23-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly. He resists and is hauled to the floor by four officers and taken to custody at Martlesham Police Investigation Centre.
Next an officer tells The Star he has “saved a life”. A man, who had been drinking, overdosed on heroin near the Cattle Market bus station. The officer, alongside paramedics, helped resuscitate him.
Drinkers continue pouring on to the streets. Chips are thrown. Bottles are kicked. The area is awash with arguments and tears.
Pc Breeze abruptly cuts short describing how a woman was arrested trying to enter Liquid when a fight erupts in Silent Street. The mass brawl attracts at least five officers. Three Section 27s are issued.
In total seven arrests were made and at least six Section 27s were issued on the night, which descended into a montage of police sirens, flashing ambulances and vomit on pavements as the sun rose to signal the end of another Saturday night in Ipswich – a quiet one at that.