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Keeping a lid on East Lancashire town centre troublemakers
“HE was drunk and just wanted to fight anybody in sight.”
So remarked an employee of Happy Haddock takeaway in Darwen Street, Blackburn, as we watched a man lying on the floor, arms across his face, curled up in pain from the PAVA spray stinging his red raw eyes.
He’d just been ejected from the shop after staff contacted police when the man became abusive and threatening.
He squared up aggressively to the officer, but was soon on the floor and under arrest for being drunk and disorderly.
The employee added: “He was drunk and being aggressive and threatening.
"Then he threw his mate’s food at us. When he’s sober, he’s a good lad.”
After the commotion, he was hauled away amid a flurry of blue flashing lights.
It is just after 11pm on a Saturday night in Blackburn and unfortunately this is a familiar sight in every town, every single weekend.
As Blackburn town centre Sergeant Alan Clayton said: “Some people are just a timebomb.
"They drink and drink and drink and then want to punch someone.”
For the Consequences campaign, the Lancashire Telegraph spent a weekend in Burnley and Blackburn centres to see if perception matched the reality.
Figures for both town centres show violent crime is on the fall, but does that translate to the public actually feeling safe?
In Burnley, within five minutes of being inside The Sanctuary, a pool ball came flying my way.
However, it was a miscued shot rather than a sign of things to come.
The next bar we visited was Walkabout, inhabited by a large group of swaggering young men, full of beer, bravado and shooting moody glances in the direction of fellow drinkers.
But there was no physical violence on show and, as the police presence became more visible the later it became, we ventured to other nightspots.
On the way, we came across a potential flashpoint in Hargreaves Street with two groups in a heated exchange being quelled by police.
With fingers pointed and accusations firing back and forth, it is easy to see how things could escalate without a prompt police presence.
Inside the Old Red Lion, a mixed clientele created a more relaxed atmosphere.
It may be a generalisation to suggest spontaneous drunken violence is more likely amongst younger men, but I certainly felt more at ease and at less risk among older customers.
It was a similar story in the Big Window and further down Manchester Road in the JD Wetherspoon pub Brun Lea.
Back out on the streets, men and women began filtering towards the clubs and taxi ranks as the evening appeared to pass without major alarm.
Burnley town centre Sergeant Phil Carter said incidents and reports of crime at weekends had ‘dramatically reduced’ over the past year.
He said: “At 10.30pm on a weekend we have a street briefing and get the team out prior to people hitting the town en-masse.
“We put them in hot spots and then encourage them to liaise with the door staff, the licensees and the public.
“Early intervention is encouraged and we have a ‘direction to leave’ system where anyone we feel is drunk and likely to cause a problem can be ordered to leave the area and not return.”
Sgt Carter said Saturday nights were busier, with people coming from other East Lancashire towns and as far away as Bradford and Bury.
But thanks to the ‘Burnley Against Night-time Disorder scheme, information on troublemakers is shared among the landlords and police.
Back in Blackburn, it’s a cold Saturday night as we walk along Northgate to Live Lounge, which was the last club Adam Rogers and his friends were at on the night of his death.
Tonight, just after 11pm, town centre police have been called to Live Lounge to help doormen kick out four young lads in smart suits.
They had been to a wedding during the day and had been drinking in the town centre.
However one of their group had been abusive to staff at a pub and another then punched a doorman at Live Lounge before being thrown out.
Sergeant Andy Duxbury checks in on pubs and clubs to make sure they were sticking to their licences and officers patrol Blackburn’s nightime hotspots every weekend keeping the peace.
An hour earlier, Sgt Clayton arrested a man for being drunk and disorderly after a row with his girlfriend and doorstaff.
He was aggressive, swearing and refusing to get out of the road.
Then comes the man in the takeaway and just after midnight, an ambulance and police are called to Bar Ibiza in Mincing Lane.
Despite having a bloody nose and an eye injury, the man refused to co-operate with police and didn’t require further treatment.
This incident is perhaps a more familiar account to many weekend revellers than the story of Adam Rogers, but both are possible outcomes from the same single punch.
As Saturday night becomes Sunday morning, there are two more incidents of note.
Another disturbance in Darwen Street at 1.45am ends with a man being arrested for drunk and disorderly and then a flashpoint at Silverline Taxis at 4am ends amicably when the man threatening to beat people up calms down.
Sgt Alan Clayton said that although there were fewer people out at weekends, work with licensees through the BarU scheme and the town centre radio link meant they were hot on the heels of any potential troublemakers.
The police do a good job keeping on top of any flare-ups.
But you wonder just how bad the situation would be without the number of officers on the streets.
While I saw no major trouble, the charged atmosphere of drink-fuelled bravado would certainly prove uncomfortable for an older clientele to be around.
And, no matter the level of policing, as the death of Adam Rogers sadly showed, it can only take one punch to end a life.
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