Does Prince of Wales Road deserve ‘most dangerous street” in Norfolk tag?
- Credit: Submitted - Louis Kemp
It was once dubbed by a senior police officer as 'the most dangerous street in Norfolk' and images released last week do nothing to alter that perception of Prince of Wales Road, the heart of Norwich's clubland.
The footage was released by police and shown on BBC television at the start of a public consultation into early morning restriction orders (EMROS) which would see the sale of alcohol banned between 3am and 6am between Monday and Friday and 3.45am and 6am on Saturdays and Sundays in the city centre.
Unfortunately the shocking images coincided with a large disturbance in Prince of Wales Road which erupted outside Mojo's shortly after 3am on Sunday.
The violence, which involved between 10 and 12 people and resulted in 10 arrests, was likened by one witness to a 'riot'.
It is footage and scenes like this which prompted some to fear that Prince of Wales Road has been thrust back into the dark days which prompted police to make the comments.
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But while Inspector Ed Brown from Norfolk Constabulary's licensing team admitted the shocking CCTV images and last week's disorder 'didn't paint a good picture of Norwich', he said problems had not got worse and urged people to come out and have a good time this weekend.
He said: 'It gives the perception of Norwich being a really unpleasant place but the truth is it's not – it's still a really safe city and crime in the night-time economy is continuing to fall.'
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But it was yet another example of an incident of alcohol-fuelled violence which happened in that period of concern to police.
Insp Brown said the key to addressing the issues of disproportionate levels of crime and violence in the post-3am period was being successful in getting early morning restriction orders in place.
He said: 'Where we see problems is between 3am and 6am where there's a disproportionate level of crime and it's about addressing that.
'We're not looking for Draconian measures to pull the hours back to 2am because that would have a detrimental effect on the city. We realise there needs to be a late night economy for the vibrancy of the city.'
But statistics show that since 2005, when pubs and clubs were allowed to open longer, there has been a 210pc increase in violent crime in Norwich between 3am and 6am and an increase in police hours of 12,000 per year.
Insp Brown said: 'At the moment, in terms of police resources, we have 25 officers out on a Friday and Saturday night policing one street. Is that an effective use of resources when there's so much other stuff going on?'
David, who runs Master Chef on Prince of Wales Road and who did not want to give his surname, said things have got worse since permission was given to clubs in the area to open until 6am.
He said: 'People are getting a bit rough and youngsters are taking drugs more than 10 years ago. Clubs are open until the early hours so they have access to drink never-ending alcohol.'
He would support an earlier closure time – so long as takeaways were able to stay open for an hour after the nightclubs emptied. 'When clubs shut that's our business.'
Toby Middleton, operations manager for clubs including Mercy XS and Roccos, said he felt EMROS would create more problems and would just encourage more people to go to supermarkets and load up on drinks.
Nick De'Ath, chairman of the Norwich Licensing Forum, said people in Prince of Wales, including bar and club owners, needed to get together to have a dialogue about how to address the problems they face in the area.
He said: 'I've written to a nightclub manager asking if he would be prepared to chair such a meeting and I'm sure the outcome would be positive.
'The people in that area want that to be a good place to go to and I think that, working with the police and authorities, that will happen. If that means bringing the closing times forward through EMROS then I think that's a good thing to do.'
Mike Stonard, the city council's cabinet member with responsibility for licensing, said: 'The purpose of the restrictions is to deal with a small minority of people who drink very late and then cause public nuisance and commit crime in three specific areas of the city.
'I would urge anyone with views on the subject to take part in the consultation.'