Guildhall Walk is better, but does it still need police?

The drivers' dispute might be over, but at what cost?

CLIVE SMITH: The dressing-up corner is now no longer safe from the PC brigade

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Five years ago, Guildhall Walk in Portsmouth held the dubious honour of being one of the most violent streets in England and Wales.

Since then there have been concerted efforts by the police and council to improve the situation. And the initiatives and schemes put in place have paid dividends – violent crime has dropped significantly.

At a recent licensing hearing where The Astoria nightclub was asking for an extension of its opening hours to 4am, police were keen to highlight that they had no problem with the club or the way it is run, but they were worried about the impact the longer opening could have on the city centre strip.

Police figures show there were 44 reports of alleged violence and sexual offences in the street between June 2015 and 2016.

And while that is lower than the 61 violent crimes reported between 2014/2015, there are still major concerns over safety.

In this light it does seem a retrograde step to remove police officers from the prime night-time clubbing spot and deploy them elsewhere.

However, it is a harsh reality that Hampshire Constabulary simply does not have the resources to be everywhere all the time. As the Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter puts it, the situation has seen ‘intolerable pressure’ placed on officers.

Chief Inspector Jim Pegler says they are trying to be ‘smarter’ with their approach to ‘resourcing the night-time economy,’ but it must be a thankless task.

A police presence has become a fixture on a night out in the area. And while officers say they are being under-utilised, we can only hope that is not just because their presence has a deterrent effect.

The thin blue line has never been thinner. We hope it doesn’t break.