CRIME on Wigan’s busiest nightlife street has almost halved in three years.
Police today credited an early intervention policy against troublemakers as one of the key reasons for the spectacular drop in the number of offences, many of them assaults, in King Street.
While admitting that a drop-off in business for the street and its pubs, clubs and takeaways will also have had an impact, a senior officer said that there were still disorder problems to tackle, particularly in relation to drunken violence.
The Evening Post asked the police for King Street crime figures following a savage attack on a Wigan man outside Madison’s Bar in which a large part of his ear was bitten off. A man has since been arrested on suspicion of assault.
According to the figures an attack of such brutality remains, fortunately, relatively rare. In the 12 months up to November 8, there were 11 incidents logged by officers as “serious violent crimes,” compared with 17 during the previous year and 16 the year before that.
But the fall in all forms of crime, including assaults, disorder, theft and vandalism is even more impressive.
In 2008 to 2009 there were 431 crimes recorded on King Street, The following year that fell to 308 and in the last 12 months, the number plummeted to 236.
Insp Glenn Jones, whose Wigan neighbourhood policing team covers the town centre, said: “We are seeing significant reductions in violent crime year on year and a lot of that is down to the night time economy strategy that I implemented for the division.
“True there has been a drop in footfall which will also have contributed over the last three years. However, Saturday night in particular remains critical in terms of violent crime and it is still busy.
“Early intervention is very important. If someone is seen involved in low level disorder officers will use ‘direction to leave’ powers which require them to vacate the area for a set period. They will be warned that the CCTV is now watching them and that failure to comply will lead to an arrest.
“The figures will show that public order arrests have actually risen as those for violent crime have gone down, because those directions to leave and public order arrests prevent more serious offences from taking place later in the night.”
Other factors attributed to reductions in violence include vigilant door staff; the use in many drinking premises of polycarbonate rather than glass bottles and drinking vessels (to avoid glassings); the use of CCTV for both prevention and detection; and the staggering of closing times so that the entire drinking population spills out onto the street at the same late hour to fight over the limited number of taxis and buses.
One of the problems still besetting the police though is the fact that the night economy now peaks later.
Insp Jones said that many people were now “loading up” on cheap alcohol from supermarkets and off-licences and only turning up to go into clubs after midnight. This can cause problems because evening police shifts finish at 3am, leaving night patrols, whose shifts overlap with them, more stretched after that hour. Shifts can only be altered for special days such as Boxing Day or “mad Friday.”