WHEN it comes to festive fun, it doesn’t get much more flamboyant than Wigan’s annual fancy dress extravaganza.
The event in King Street is once again due to take place on Boxing Day, when the town centre bars will be awash with cartoon characters, historical figures, superheroes and Hollywood idols.
But with up to 20,000 party-goers expected to head for the town centre’s traditional bash, police and council safety chiefs are already making plans to ensure 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, controlling access to King Street via two points of entry, at Wallgate and Rodney Street. People arriving will only be able to enter through these two points of entry, both of which will be managed by officers using knife wands for additional security.
Officers will also be patrolling the street during the course of the night, as well as in peripheral areas around the town centre where disorder may occur, such as the church gardens, taxi ranks and bus station.
Wigan’s Town Centre Management Team – a partnership which includes the police, council, retailers, churches and other community organisations – is investing in private security to boost the police effort. The council’s CCTV team will be keeping watch from vantage points along King Street - and indeed right across the borough - monitoring activity and advising police of any potential trouble before it gets out of hand.
These precautionary measures support the current Section 30 Dispersal Zone in the town centre, which gives police specific powers to disperse groups that are causing nuisance in public places.
Town Centre Management are funding two advanced medics and an ambulance to act as first response on King St during Boxing Night. The medics will help reduce the pressure on the emergency services and be able to deal with any minor injuries that may occur on the night
Insp Glenn Jones of Wigan Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “We want party-goers to enjoy themselves in a safe environment, confident in the knowledge that agencies are working hard to protect them from danger, which unfortunately includes the potential for alcohol-fuelled serious violent crime.
“Knife crime is rare in Wigan borough, but 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, so we are not complacent.
“This kind of high profile activity gives the public reassurance and impresses upon those who may be tempted to get embroiled in violent activity that they will be caught and prosecuted.”
Susan Thorpe is Deputy Chair of Wigan Pub and Club Watch, as well as the manager of the Hub nightspot on King Street.
She says: “Wigan has a reputation for being one of the safest nightime destinations in the north west, thanks in no small part to the way in which venues work with the police and council on a range of measures.
“Alcohol-fuelled violence and criminal disorder are not good for local businesses. Party goers on Boxing Day can rest assured that we’re all working hard behind the scenes so they can enjoy themselves in a safe environment.”
Coun Paul Prescott, chair of the Licensing Committee at Wigan Council, said: “We all look forward to having fun at this time of year, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our common sense.”
Coun Kevin Anderson, the council’s champion for safer neighbourhoods, added: “We’re not setting out to be kill joys, but we urge people to show respect and consideration for others.”
In the lead up to Christmas, officers have already visited licensed premises, offering advice on regulations around drinks promotions and under-age sales.