A MAJOR crackdown is being planned in a bid to tackle potential violence and disorder during Wigan’s popular fancy dress festive celebrations.
The annual event on King Street, which typically attracts up to 20,000 party goers, is again scheduled for Boxing Day.
And police and council safety chiefs are determined that revellers will be able to let their hair down without putting their personal safety at risk.
As part of Operation Dominator, a lockdown will be put in place from 8.30pm, restricting access to King Street via the top end near Wallgate. People will only be able to enter King Street through two knife arches while officers will also be patrolling the street area scanning with knife wands.
Extra police will patrol other parts of the town centre, such as church gardens, taxi ranks and the bus station, where disorder may potentially occur.
The measures coincide with the introduction on Christmas Day of a temporary Dispersal Zone in the town centre, which gives police specific powers to disperse groups that are causing nuisance in public places.
Insp Glenn Jones of Wigan Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “Whilst knife crime is rare in Wigan borough, we are conscious of this growing trend in other parts of the country and of how popular it is to carry knives in some communities.
“This kind of high profile activity gives us an ideal opportunity to provide public reassurance, and also to impress upon those who may be tempted to carry knives that they will be caught and prosecuted.
“We want party-goers to go out and enjoy themselves in a safe environment, secure in the knowledge that partners are working hard to protect them from the dangers of violence.”
Coun Paul Prescott, Wigan Council’s lifestyle champion and chair of the Licensing Committee, said: “Drinking in large quantities can make you more vulnerable, potentially putting you at greater risk of either becoming an offender or victim of crime. Operation Dominator has already proven to be an effective multi-agency measure in fighting crime, violence and anti-social behaviour associated with the night-time economy.”
In the lead-up to Christmas, officers have already visited licensed premises across the town centre, offering advice on regulations around drinks promotions and under-age sales.
On Boxing Day, officers from Wigan Council’s Youth Offending Team will also join officers in a bid to identify and engage with under-age drinkers, in particular targeting the vulnerable ones who may become victims of crime.
As part of Dominator, a similar multi-agency bid to tackle under-age drinking and anti-social behaviour in Wigan town centre was organised over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
On the night, the police made three arrests for public order offences, carried out one stop and search and issued nine directions to leave. Officers visited licensed premises to ensure door staff and managers were checking for customer identification.
Meanwhile, members of the council’s Youth Offending Team and the Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Team engaged with under-age drinkers, offering advice on alcohol consumption and personal safety.
Operation Dominator is funded from central government’s Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP), which aims to reduce the carrying of knives, related deaths and serious stabbings among teenagers (13-19 years) in 10 police force areas, including Greater Manchester.
Coun Kevin Anderson, the council’s champion for safer neighbourhoods, said: “We don’t want to be killjoys, but it’s vital that we consider the safety of everybody. Please look out for others and make sure that your seasonal celebrations end on a happy note.”