Booze-fuelled chaos in our town centres

A police officer on patrol during Operation Nightsafe
A police officer on patrol during Operation Nightsafe

Drunken arguments, binge drinking and people staggering in the road – these are just some of the challenges facing police officers in the north of the county every Saturday night.

Joining officers on a typical weekend night, the scale of the task ahead soon became apparent – on top of the thousands of people descending on Kettering town centre for a night out, two officers in a police car also patrol the north of the county monitoring roads, villages and town centres.

My night out on patrol began at Kettering Police Station at 10pm. Inspector Vaughan Clarke, East Northamptonshire sector commander, who was leading the night’s policing operation, told me: “This is the main town for people going out in the north of the county. I’ve got about 16 officers out, as well as the dog mobile unit and the traffic mobiles. The main intention is that it’s a deterrent to have police out on patrol. Silver Street in Kettering is the main area. We want people to enjoy themselves sensibly and responsibly, and not binge drink.

“The main problem is people drinking beyond their control.”

After making our way over to outside the Earl of Dalkeith we meet PCs Sam Street and Luke Berriman on patrol.

“The main problem is people having too much too quickly,” PC Berriman explained.

PC Street added: “People tend to drink at home until about midnight and then come out.”

Shortly after, we were around the corner at the scene of a heated dispute between a group of young men.

“Too much drink and too much testosterone,” Inspector Clarke said.

It was then time to walk the beat with Sgt Scott Little. After about half-an-hour a call came in about a domestic incident in Ebenezer Place.

“You have to bear in mind that there’s a lot of residential premises in the town centre,” Sgt Little said. “These people have had a lot to drink and there has been some sort of altercation inside.”

At 11.30pm I left the town centre and joined PCs Ian Baylis and Emilie Bunkall whose patch stretched from the A45 near Wellingborough as far as Corby. Both advanced drivers, they were responsible for policing the county’s busiest roads

Rushden High Street, which 10 years ago would have been far more bustling, was extremely quiet compared to Kettering. Wellingborough town centre also didn’t seem as busy. Aside from a healthy crowd outside the Gloucester and the Cutting Room, this town was also lacking the hustle and bustle witnessed earlier in Kettering.

Back on to the A509 and heading out of Wellingborough the duo get a call to say there had been a report of a man walking in the A45 between Stanwick and Raunds. On came the blue flashing lights and the car sped to the reported site. En route we passed another man walking in the road along the A6 near Irthlingborough.

The officers tell me that people walking home after having too much to drink and wearing dark clothing was not uncommon.

On to the A45 and the call had been updated to say the walker could be anywhere between Raunds and Rushden, but it wasn’t long before we caught up with him; a middle aged man dressed in a black top and jeans who was the worse for wear.

He’d been on a night out in Higham and was walking home to Thrapston. He’d not made it that far and he’d already fallen over, so they had no choice but to give him a lift home.

By the time I’d got back into town the mood had shifted measurably. Happy faces and chatting friends had been replaced by girls slumped over the pavements staring into piles of their own vomit.

Summing up the evening, Inspector Clarke said: “We’ve had to warn one or two people about their behaviour but they have generally responded.”