The high tech gadgets helping to prevent crime in Norwich’s clubland
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
A top Norwich policeman has told how crime has plummeted in the city's clubland since it was bolstered by new high-tech security measures.
Ten cutting edge ID scanners have been introduced on the doors of venues in and around Prince of Wales, taking the names, ages, addresses and photos of everybody who goes in.
Data is taken from a scan of a driving licence or passport, which a person must have with them to get into a venue, and then a separate is taken of the person.
The scanners, which look similar to a pub quiz machine, cost £60,000 in total and were paid for by Norfolk police's so-called problem solving budget.
Nathan Clark, local policing commander for Norwich city centre, said the scanners had led to a culture change, with people acting more responsibly as they knew their details were on a temporary database.
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The scanners are among a raft of new measures, including new gadgets on the doors of Mercy nightclub such as ultra-violet torches to detect traces of drugs, metal-detector gloves to conduct searches for offensive weapons more discretely and body-cams to record evidence of disorder.
Chief Insp Clark said the scanners were 'absolute gold dust' in policing terms.
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'We've already seen a reduction in incidents and arrests,' he said. 'It's the whole mindset that people can go out completely anonymously, have a few beers then lamp someone in a kebab shop - you're taking that away.
'The scanners make them feel more responsible for their actions.'
Information is held securely by the club for 28 days before it is erased, and only passed to police if requested for a policing purpose, with the request signed off by the chief inspector and approved by the data controller at the club.
Up to 15,000 people flock to Norwich to enjoy its nightlife on a Friday or Saturday, with problems well documented - including a policeman whose leg was broken in an attack last year.
But the scanners, installed in April and used from May, after door staff received training, have already made a difference.
'We had the Lord Mayor's Procession last weekend and this road was absolutely packed, yet we only had three arrests,' said Chief Insp Clark. 'That is unprecedented.
'We've never had only three arrests on a Saturday night in Norwich for as long as I can remember.'
He added that the £60,000 was money well spent.
'If we were to run a major investigation, let's say for a murder or a serious sexual offence, if you imagine the time detectives spend on a case, this will pay for itself within one incident,' he said. 'You can do as many witness appeals as you want - you would never get 900 people in a club at the click of a button.
'It also gets the venues' door staff and police working together more closely.'
Clubs were offered the chance to have the machines by police, and their use is voluntary.
They are on the doors of the following pubs: Stadia, Gonzos Tea Rooms, Bronx, Fluke, Qube, Mercy XS, Sugar and Spice, Mojos and Mantra.
There was also a scanner on the doors of Lost in Prince of Wales Road, but the venue has since closed.
Andy Clarke, head doorman at Mercy, said the technology took arguments out of the situation and there had been results already.
He said that a man arrived to the club in a Primark coat but tried to steal an expensive coat, claiming it was his.
Door staff checked the photo on the scanner of what he was wearing to confirm he was lying, and the man dropped the coat and fled.
'This technology helps us no end,' he added.
Most young people did not mind the scanners as they were used to presenting their ID, he said, adding that if a middle-aged person did not have ID with them they could just take their photo.
Norwich is thought to have the largest single deployment of the new machines in the country, after a handful were trialled at venues in Watford.
The first police statistics showing how effective the scanners have been are set to be released after they have been in use for six months.
Toby Middleton, manager of Mercy nightclub, said: 'The security measures are there for people's safety and to stop opportunists who want to cause problems. 'This is putting Prince of Wales Road right at the forefront of intelligence.'
He added that the scanners meant away football fans had been allowed into the club on match days.
'There wasn't going to be any trouble as we had everyone's ID,' he said.
The new scanners
The 10 new scanners pictured, costing £60,000, were bought by police and are used with the agreement of clubs.
The technology is called ScanNet.
A driving licence or passport is scanned, and a photo taken to show what a person is wearing on a given night.
Data is held securely for 28 days in a searchable format, and can be requested by police.
There is a banning facility on the machine, so trouble makers can be denied entry in future.
Mercy nightclub has introduced a raft of security measures.
A special metal detector glove pictured is used by door staff to find offensive weapons, and it vibrates if an item is detected.
This allows potential incidents to be dealt with more discretely, and was introduced last week.
An ultra violet torch can detect traces of drugs such as cocaine on the nostrils.
Body cams, new this weekend, will be used by management and the head doorman to record any evidence of disorder to assist police.
Breathalysers, introduced in 2013, are used to stop arguments over how much somebody has had to drink.
There is not a strict limit at which entry is denied, with a common sense approach adopted for everyone's safety.