WATCH: Seven arrests and lifts home - how police handled Black Friday in Norwich
PUBLISHED: 14:47 23 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:10 23 December 2018
The last Friday (and pay day) before Christmas, and the final chance for the work do, meant Black Friday always had the potential to be memorable for police.
They were geared up to see thousands of people on the city’s streets, on what could be their busiest night of the year.
I wrapped up and joined one of Norfolk police’s public order teams, shadowing sergeant Mike Larkin, an experienced officer of 12 years, who started out as a PCSO and spent years as a detective.
First up was a team briefing at the Bethel Street station, a chance to set out the night’s priorities, expectations of officers, people to be on the look-out for and areas of concern.
Eyes were fixed on the weather - rain, a useful policing tool, had been predicted, bringing with it the potential of dampening down any trouble.
At 10.30pm we were out, excitement at being in a police car high (for me, rather than sergeant Larkin, I imagine). An initial lap of the city found the Waterfront, St Andrew’s Street and Wensum Street bustling with revellers.
Then the rain came. Heavy rain. The city was awash with umbrellas and ambles turned into speedy high-heeled shuffles to move quickly without breaking limbs.
But the city continued to heave, as footfall moved gradually into the centre of its clubland - Prince of Wales Road.
My first blue-light experience came fast, when a driver next to us ran a red light. We followed and after turning a corner, he pulled over (slower than you’d expect, sergeant Larkin said) and was breathalysed.
On Prince of Wales, one man was spoken to after knocking down railings outside a venue, and queues at taxi ranks built (memories of cold, wet nights waiting for the taxi home came flooding back).
A group of men were removed from one venue after fighting, and were given a section 35 notice - ordering them to leave a certain area for a certain time period.
But, at the same time, the club decided to close earlier than expected. Its revellers found themselves unexpectedly back out on the road. The presence of officers led to one conclusion: Police had shut it down.
The atmosphere changed, with a threat of hostility swiftly in the air and accusations from clubbers. It was easy to see how, particularly for a lone officer, it could be a daunting experience.
Sergeant Larkin said: “We’re keeping order and one or two people are not happy they’ve been asked to leave - I think they were expecting their night to go on a bit longer.”
As we left for another patrol around the city, we were called back to Prince of Wales to support officers.
One of the men given a section 35 order had been found breaching it in another bar. He was arrested and, after some negotiation, put in the back of a van.
It was one of seven arrests in Norwich that night (there were another 12 on Saturday night) including ones for ABH and a man found with a metal pole.
Next up was a call to a smashed door at the train station, with a man spotted running from the scene. A companion was distressed, and very drunk, and after doing his best to ascertain what had happened, sergeant Larkin called for a team to take her home.
Being a taxi service is not out of the ordinary for police - and it’s easy to see why. Leaving a vulnerable, drunk person to find their own way back goes against everything they do. But it isn’t their job.
It was a good example, and one of many, of police taking on other roles. Social workers, mental health professionals and, increasingly, even ambulance drivers - policing today is much more than a bobby on the beat.
“It’s not the fault of the other services,” sergeant Larkin said, “but it’s because we have no other choice. We tend to get there first, we deal with first response.”
As our shift came to an end (well, mine - while we left at 3am, the team were on until 7am), we stumbled on a fight outside the Maids Head, which quickly simmered out, and a driver without their lights on.
By the time we left, the night was quietening. Many of the night’s casual drinkers had fled the weather, leaving just those determined to stick it out.
So had it lived up to the hype of a manic Black Friday? Well, partly - the consensus was that while it was a busy Friday night, the rain held off the chaos officers had feared.
Sergeant Larkin said: “It’s been dampened down a bit by the weather, but as always the majority have been fine and given us no trouble whatsoever. It’s the few we have to deal with to make sure everybody else has a good night.”