Portsmouth police bolster night-time patrols ahead of summer’s ‘one big party week’
POLICE are bolstering numbers of officers working nights as clubs and pubs welcome punters indoors and summer looms ahead.
Half of Portsmouth’s neighbourhood beat teams are being switched to late shifts as lockdown continues to ease.
The city’s district commander Clare Jenkins told The News that June 21 - when restrictions are due to be axed completely - could see ‘one big party week’.
It comes as police representatives anticipate a ‘very busy summer’ and officers are keen to prevent a repeat of chaotic scenes in Southsea last summer.
Superintendent Jenkins said her team would ‘step up and support’ people who ‘go out and enjoy themselves safely’.
‘This is about Portsmouth getting up and running again,’ Supt Jenkins said.
Volunteers will be helping look after the drunk and merry outside bars and clubs - and at outdoors hotspots including Southsea Common.
Those helping include Street Pastors, Portsmouth Hive and Portsmouth Ambassadors.
A safe spaces scheme has already been launched, by Portsmouth City of Sanctuary, giving businesses training to provide support to those in need.
Supt Jenkins told The News: ‘It really is about having some high-visibility people that know the city, they know where they can signpost people to if they’ve had a little bit too much to drink and can point them in the right direction of cabs and taxis.
‘It’s really acknowledging the fact that there are a lot of people out there who might not have been out in a long time.’
Measures are being put into place now but the biggest week is expected to be that of June 21, particularly with England playing the Czech Republic in a Euro 2020 group stage match the next day.
Supt Jenkins added: ‘We need to prepare for the fact there will be a big week not just for the weekend, but the week.’
Asked how she will measure the summer policing operation a success, she said: ‘I want people to be able to come to Portsmouth, enjoy a night out safely, minimal disorder and having trust and confidence from the community that we’ve done the right thing and we have been visible.
‘I can’t say zero crime as that’s not realistic but I would want to minimise any offences.
‘If we’re finding any offences then we’ll deal with them robustly when we need to as we have done in the last year.’
Officers launched Operation Nautical in April – upping patrols on the coastline along Old Portsmouth to Eastney in a bid to quell problems.
POLICE representatives are worried it will be a struggle to get enough officers out on the streets.
Zoe Wakefield, chair of Hampshire Police Federation, said a surge of incidents in summer will be challenging as many officers now have new recruits to train.
Some new officers will have never policed the pubs and clubs before, she said.
‘We’re fully preparing for a very busy summer,’ she said.
‘It’s going to be really difficult because we’re still really short-staffed.
‘People might see in the media there’s a 20,000 uplift in officers, but they are not independent officers yet; they’re still student officers.
‘When you look at our numbers without those students, we are really struggling.
‘That’s going to be the problem in the summer, we’ve got all these student officers, but they’re not able to go out on patrol on their own yet.
‘So the experienced officers are obviously tutoring them, coaching them, so they’ve got a tough job ahead because they’re going to have to police all this extra stuff, but in the background, they’ve got somebody else that they’re trying to teach and mentor and look after.’
Supt Clare Jenkins, Portsmouth district commander, said student officers will be with a mentor at all times until they are cleared for independent patrol.
Sgt Wakefield added: ‘We’re having discussions with the force about the fact we’ve had no night-time economy now for over a year, and so we’ve got officers that will have coming up to 18 months service, but they will never have policed it.
‘So we’re having a look at what we can do to prepare those officers because the night-time economy isn’t going to be a normal night-time economy.
‘It’s going to be full-on, and when you’ve never dealt with pubs spilling out, groups of drunken people, when you’ve never had that experience before, we want to make sure that those officers are prepared.’