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SuffolkNews follows police on Friday night in Bury St Edmunds as they educate public on safety



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Police invited Suffolk News to join them on Friday night to find out how clubs and bars are coping post-pandemic and promoting night safety among members of the public.

The first event to be held in Bury St Edmunds, their aim was to find out what businesses are doing to ensure customers are safe whilst on a night out, educate members of the public about how to keep themselves safe and have a visible presence in the town centre to prevent crimes.

Suffolk News, alongside the police and crime commissioner, members of the council's licensing department and the chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds (BID), came along to find out how three town centre bars are getting on and shadowed police officers as they handed out anti-spiking tools.

Pictured: Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds (BID); special constable, Josh Payne; sgt Daniel Peck; PC Ryan Chivers; Tim Passmore, Police & Crime Commissioner; and Natasha Wade-Guest and Hayleigh Peters from West Suffolk Council Licensing
Pictured: Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds (BID); special constable, Josh Payne; sgt Daniel Peck; PC Ryan Chivers; Tim Passmore, Police & Crime Commissioner; and Natasha Wade-Guest and Hayleigh Peters from West Suffolk Council Licensing

The first bar that we headed down to was Verve, formally LP, to talk to its founder and business owner Wes Roper.

Wes explained that his business opened just at the tail end of restrictions and has seen how the pandemic has affected people's attitudes to returning to bars and restaurants.

He said: "I think Covid has changed the way people come out. It took quite a while for people 30 and over because people formed new habits. But that transitioned quite nicely over a couple of months and people started to come back out again.

We first spoke to Wes Roper, owner of Verve in Bury St Edmunds
We first spoke to Wes Roper, owner of Verve in Bury St Edmunds

"We are now seeing a bit of a shortage because of the cost of living - there's been a decrease in footfall. People might now only come to bars and night clubs once a month or so."

Wes also added that staffing has been a challenge.

"At the moment we've got job adverts for bar staff and I think we've had about 40 applicants which is good," he said.

"However, they are mostly university students who are looking for work, which is fantastic for the summer, but then come September/October they return to uni.

"Chefs are hard to come by - a lot moved on during Covid. We have door staff now but at the beginning it was difficult."

The Corn Exchange - JD Wetherspoon. Picture: Richard Marsham
The Corn Exchange - JD Wetherspoon. Picture: Richard Marsham

After stopping by at Verve, we walked over to JD Wetherspoon and the newly opened Damson & Wilde.

I then broke off from the group and shadowed PC Tony Orr, who has been with the force for 16 years, and Tina Barber, who has been a special constable for seven months, as they handed out brightly coloured anti-spiking bottle caps and drink covers.

Chief Inspector Andy Pursehouse alongside Fabrizio Lippi, general manager of Damson & Wilde
Chief Inspector Andy Pursehouse alongside Fabrizio Lippi, general manager of Damson & Wilde

PC Orr said: "There hasn't been a big spiking problem in Bury as far as I'm aware. In recent months there has been a bit of a rise in spiking incidents nationally so we've come up with these ideas. We do these sorts of things every now and then or if it does become more of an issue."

He then went on to explain what a typical weekend on the town is like for police officers.

"This time of night we tend to get drunken incidents and maybe a few fights, and occasionally domestics," he said.

"It's normally people getting a bit boisterous and maybe taking things a little too far because they've had too much to drink.

Chief Inspector, Andy Pursehouse; Tina Barber, special constable; PC Ryan Chivers; PC Tony Orr and Josh Payne, special constable
Chief Inspector, Andy Pursehouse; Tina Barber, special constable; PC Ryan Chivers; PC Tony Orr and Josh Payne, special constable

"Quite often you'll find that the mood will change over the course of the evening.

"From years and years of experience most of the time the problems come at the end of the evening when everyone comes out of all the clubs and congregate together to get food."

The police are working hard to ensure the safety of members of the public on nights out.

A new Ask for Angela poster will be rolled out to bars and restaurants which will have a scannable QR code for people to access information if they don't want to talk.

Police said they also recognise that incidents do not just occur outside bars or clubs or in the town centre. People are particularly vulnerable when travelling home or once at home, for example in domestic abuse cases.

Sgt Daniel Peck, who works on the West Neighbourhood Partnership Team - licensing and anti-social behaviour, said: "Licensed premises are now coming out of Covid and they have their challenges. The things that they are saying are around retention of bar staff and footfall.

"Bury is not all night clubs and bars which brings a different demographic. It's a great town for night time economy - it's just about getting people back into town and removing that potential fear around spiking."

Chief Inspector, Andy Pursehouse added: "We're working with venues to try and make it a safe place.

"It's not just about the drinking, it's about now recognising vulnerability. Domestic abuse, violence against women and girls also comes into that.

"We are also trying to educate the general public. We want people to look after each other."