POLICE and university chiefs are launching a special operation to stop alcohol-fuelled trouble after “student nights” were blamed for a rise in crime and disorder on Mondays.
Police say Monday nights – when Sunderland’s city centre pubs and clubs target students – have grown to rival the weekend in terms of incidents linked to licensed premises.
Now officers are working with Sunderland University and the Students’ Union to prepare for the thousands of students due to descend on the city this week as the new academic year begins.
Chief Inspector Sean McKenna, from Sunderland Area Command, said: “It’s freshers’ week and approximately 2,000 new students will come to the city and for many of them it will be their first time away from home for a prolonged period of time.
“They’ll be excited and have some money in their pocket and want to spend it. They need a little while to settle down and they need educating about enjoying life in a responsible way.”
Chief Insp McKenna told members of the Community and Safer City Scrutiny Committee that Monday nights were now a close second to Saturday nights in the city centre, while Friday nights had quietened down.
He said this posed a problem for police as shift patterns at the weekend were designed to provide a substantial police presence and comfortable overlap to cope with drinking until the early hours, but the same was not true of Monday nights.
Chief Insp McKenna said Monday nights saw young people coming in to the city centre from the Durham area and South Tyneside as well as Sunderland.
Leanne Davis, drug and alcohol strategy manager at the council, added that it was not necessarily students at Sunderland University who were responsible for the peak on Monday nights.
Speaking after the meeting, a spokeswoman for Sunderland University said the safety of its students was paramount and it worked closely with police to ensure scholars had the most appropriate advice.
“The university has had a very good track record over the years for ensuring students behave responsibly and stay safe during Freshers’ Fortnight, a time when we have many young people coming into the city for the first time,” she said.
“Our health and wellbeing team and our Students’ Union also work closely with students, encouraging them to drink responsibly and look after each other when enjoying a night out in the city centre.
“A special operation involving university staff, the police and Students’ Union representatives will take place over the next two weeks, when we will be handing out thousands of Freshers’ packs to students, which contain information and advice about personal safety and alcohol awareness.”