'We have to be more positive about town', says nightclub boss
A nightclub manager has endorsed Ipswich as a safe place to visit at night and hopes others will help 'push a more positive message' about the town.
Will Hodge, manager of Unit 17, said bad news was bound to spread wider and more quickly than good news about the town.
Mr Hodge was speaking as we joined the 'night time economy team' on one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Police, borough council officers, Town Pastors and ambulance staff were in regular contact around the town's most popular nightspots on Saturday night.
At their disposal, police had the power to issue a Section 35 Dispersal Order, excluding people from the area for up to 48 hours, to remove or reduce the likelihood of crime or disorder.
Unit 17 has strict entry controls, including a security arch and identity scanner.
Mr Hodge said: "People were initially apprehensive about the arch, but it's been really well received and we get good feedback, including from parents of our younger clientele, who think it's a proactive way of safeguarding."
Mr Hodge sits on a banning committee of licensees, police and council representatives, while staff are tuned into the Town Link radio system to keep in contact with authorities and other venues.
"It's a level-headed approach to taking action," he said.
"I'm really pleased with the relationship between licensing bodies, the police and council.
"In life, if you're fair to someone, they'll generally be fair to you. We engage with each other, rather than have a 'them and us' attitude.
"Working in tandem and having a close relationship can only be beneficial for the town.
"You can never predict something happening, but you can try to nip it in the bud before it does. If we're observant and proactive, we can do that.
"I think Ipswich is generally a really safe place to come out.
"I've worked in a few towns and cities, where there are high levels of disorder in high streets.
"It's better than a lot of the places I've seen - even on nights considered public order priorities.
"The incidents we see here are isolated, but bad news spreads better than good news. People are more likely to respond online to someone being stabbed than hundreds of people enjoying themselves without incident.
"We have to better at pushing a positive message."
Before we joined the night time economy team, Inspector Becky Kidd-Stanton said officers were out to engage with the public, not wait for someone to step over the line.
"We want everyone to go home - not cells full of people," she said.
"However, if people are warned about their behaviour and continue, they can be removed from the town centre or arrested, if necessary.
"Businesses are an integral part of ensuring people have a safe night out.
"This is about early intervention; talking to door supervisors at the start of the evening, and supporting licensed premises."
Mr Hodge said: "At this time of year, we get people who are not used to drinking.
"We've all been in a position where we've had too many. I'd like to think someone would be there to pick my children up if they were vulnerable.
"It's great that the Town Pastors are around to focus on the vulnerable."