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Night on the town opens civic eyes

PUBLISHED: 13:04 14 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:20 03 March 2010

FRIDAY the 13th seemed like an ominous time for a group of professionals to observe nightlife in Ipswich.

The evening was arranged as part of Nightsafe Ipswich to give people involved in the scheme the opportunity to see how police and club staff deal with incidents on one of the busiest nights of the week.

FRIDAY the 13th seemed like an ominous time for a group of professionals to observe nightlife in Ipswich.

The evening was arranged as part of Nightsafe Ipswich to give people involved in the scheme the opportunity to see how police and club staff deal with incidents on one of the busiest nights of the week.

Councillors and magistrates clerks travelled in an unmarked police van to various clubs around Ipswich with members of the force last night.

Nightsafe was launched in April to help the fight against late night town centre violence.

Last night's visit to clubs gave the councillors and clerks (who advise magistrates on points of law) the opportunity to get a close up view of Ipswich at night.

The tour included trips to clubs such as Pals, Liquid and Kartouche at peak times. It also included opportunity to observe the huge numbers of people who use the pubs and clubs in Ipswich.

The leisure industry in Ipswich has increased dramatically in the last few years. In January 1997 there were only 67 licensed premises in Ipswich town centre, in December 2000 this had increased to 134.

On busy weekends it has been estimated that up to 10,000 people use the leisure facilities in the town.

The club tour was an opportunity the professionals were glad to have. Members of the party were able to observe club security in action and question police and club bosses about their methods.

Councillor Liz Cooper is chairman of the licensing and regulatory committee. She was joined last night by vice chairman, Albert Grant.

Both councillors admitted that clubbing in Ipswich is not how they normally socialise but that the evening gave them the chance to see things from a different perspective.

Cllr Cooper said: "We hear a lot about what is going on and what is happening and this gives us the chance to have a look ourselves."

As the evening panned out it remained largely incident free. With the unmarked van attending just two relatively minor incidents in between patrolling the town and visiting clubs.

However one incident, involving two females in Cardinal Park, gave the observers the chance to see the resources that are required to deal with incidents.

Meryl Skinner, licensing clerk for Ipswich, said: "It's always useful to see things first hand. We see things as consumers but seeing it from a police perspective is rather different."

She added that she, and her colleague Ginny Rees Morgan, would be able to use the evening to feed back information to magistrates.

Between them Pc Steve Hudson and Pc John Burch have more than 50 years experience of patrolling Ipswich. The community beat officers for the town centre said it had been a quiet night but that it was a very worthwhile experience.

Pc Hudson added that Nightsafe had played an important part in combating town centre violence.

He said: "We have seen massive changes in Ipswich recently and when you get masses of people and drink you will inevitably get trouble. However, Nightsafe has had a positive impact."

The evening certainly generated plenty of ideas as to how things could be improved. Suggestions such as improved late night public transport, refusing to let people drink on the street and changes to licensing hours were all aired.

Overall those involved believed the club tour was beneficial.

Miss Skinner said: "There's always the issue of how few police there are and you can see how many people are needed to deal with incidents. It is clear that prevention is important because it is difficult to deal with incidents when they do happen."

Cllr Cooper said: "It was definitely worth the trip. We very much want to be seen to be working with the police. We are working together and with the clubs."

Superintendent Geoff Munns, southern area operations manager, said that the evening gave people an idea of what the police are dealing with and that future "professional visits" were likely.

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