Plymouth police start new early shift to keep eye on clubbers
POLICE have begun bringing in new "early-bird" shifts to target revellers who are still causing trouble on the streets after dawn.
As part of Operation Expound – which focuses on the evening and night time economy areas of the city – new shifts are being piloted which sees some officers beginning their shift at 5am, replacing those who have already been working all night in areas such as Union Street, North Hill and Mutley Plain.
Plymouth's new 'head of crime', Detective Superintendent Keith Perkin, said drinking trends in the city frequently saw officers held up taking suspects to Charles Cross Police Station in the early hours, leaving fewer and fewer Operation Expound officers on the ground at hot-spot locations.
Det Supt Perkin said: "We identified an issue and this is what we've done about it – and it seems to be working. It's been in place for a couple of weekends now. We've also extended the CCTV coverage as well, through partnership funding."
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He said since August additional staff have been in the CCTV control room to "compliment what we're doing on the street".
As a result, "16 people have been detained" from the extra pairs of eyes keeping watch on the city's cameras. The new actions came about following a recent spike in violent crime figures. Det Supt Perkin said there had been an increased focus on the issue over the past few months as while overall crime had dropped around 10 percent – with acquisitive crime like burglary and car crime down nearly 20 percent – violent crime had risen.
"The trend for the last five years is crime has come down," he said. "Last year crime went up in Devon and Cornwall and this year it's down again. There are two main contributors to the violent crime figures.
"The first centres around the night time economy, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, but also on Wednesday nights. The second is the increase in domestic abuse figures. People are more willing to report it now than before because there's a lot more support for victims of domestic violence."
He said the Operation Expound 5am shifts on Sunday and Thursday mornings – undertaken by officers who have volunteered – was a response to the problem of violent crime.
He added: "If you bring in someone fresh in the morning, to support those who have been on for 10 hours dealing with revellers, then that will help. If you put officers out on the street they're seeing more and people are more likely to report offences.
"We will take positive action and we have a range of powers to assist us to tackle incidents in the night time economy, including directions to leave and public notice of disorder."
Det Supt Perkin said the police were also working in partnership with other groups to help those who turn a night out into a burden on the NHS, such as the recent Streetsafe scheme which has seen officers work with St John Ambulance, the Street Pastors and South Western Ambulance Service.
Det Supt Perkin felt licensed premises also had a role to play – and some could face sanctions if they did not take steps to tackle violence.
"We pick up on trends and if we notice that incidents are as a result of a licensed premises they may get a visit," he said.
"We'll ask them if they want any support or greater visibility. But if we're visiting them for the tenth time then we will ramp up the response. We'd certainly encourage them to get involved in the Best Bar None scheme because it's a positive way to improve standards."