VERA BAIRD: Policing Sunderland’s nightlife

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.
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THE Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner in her first blog for www.sunderlandecho.com:

ONE of the most interesting parts of my role as Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner is going out on patrol with officers.

There’s nothing like seeing first hand the work and the challenges they face each day and night keeping the streets of Sunderland and other areas safe.

Like all jobs policing has its ups and downs – and the satisfaction of helping our communities certainly makes the job worthwhile for all officers.

From my patrols out with officers on Wearside, it’s clear problems created by alcohol tie up more than their fair share of resources.

That’s why I want us all to work together to find long term solutions to alcohol-related issues.

While out with Inspector Mick Hall and PC Graeme Jenkinson I saw for myself Operation Guardian, which promotes a responsible night-time economy in Sunderland city centre, and sees police officers and partners using early intervention to tackle drink-fuelled disorder before it becomes a problem.

It’s vital people can come into our towns and cities to socialise and know they are in a safe environment, so I’m pleased that police are working with partners and door staff to ensure Sunderland remains vibrant, safe and peaceful.

As part of the operation, police work with pubs and clubs to promote responsible drinking. People committing offences in licensed premises or the city centre will be the subject of an exclusion order under the Pubwatch scheme.

Anyone charged in relation to alcohol-related crimes will also have strict bail conditions excluding them from the city centre.

These are the sort of joined-up initiatives which can have a real positive impact on areas which have a night time economy, and we’re also rolling out the vulnerability awareness training to officers in Sunderland, after its successful launch in Newcastle.

Wearside officers are getting extra training to assess “triggers” of vulnerability; these include the amount of alcohol someone has consumed, their age, whether they are on their own or have lost contact with their friends.

This means officers and doorstaff can intervene and help those who are vulnerable – whether it’s taking them to a place of safety, seeking the help of another agency or re-uniting them with their friends.

But despite all this excellent work, we also need to be looking at the wider picture and what can be done to stop people getting so drunk in the first place that they become vulnerable or violent and end up in a situation they may never have imagined at the start of the night.

This isn’t just an issue for the police, doorstaff, local authority or the drinks industry – it’s an issue for everyone.

It’s only by taking some bold steps we can develop long term solutions which will ultimately benefit not just the people of Wearside but the country as a whole.

During my term as Commissioner this is an area I’m determined to progress.