POLICE are out in force as hundreds of people are pouring into bars and clubs in Portsmouth each night in the run-up to Christmas.
With more revellers drinking too much, pubs and bars crowded and the nights getting colder, more people are potentially at risk.
The News joined Sgt Rob Sutton from Portsmouth police on Saturday night as he patrolled the nighttime hotspots in a bid to stop trouble before it starts.
It’s a busy night, starting with a prisoner in the back of Sgt Sutton’s police van banging around screaming after being arrested allegedly filming in Guildhall Square cubicle toilets.
The man briefly calms down as he’s booked into custody – enough time for Sgt Sutton to get back to Operation Rigging, the plan to target alcohol-related violence and sex crimes this December after a spike in crime.
‘There’s the potential that can escalate,’ Sgt Sutton said.
‘We’ve got the Christmas parties, the high spirits, we’ve got more people in the nighttime economy areas.
‘It’s a bit of a two-pronged approach as a solution.
‘One is to get in there with the high-visibility patrols so that the visible presence deters things.’
He added: ‘We’re looking at those who could be aggressors, drinking a bit too much and getting there and engaging with them, as well as looking for vulnerable people who could be susceptible to being victims of crime.
‘It’s trying to reduce the likelihood of some of that crime from happening and providing those high-visibility patrols as well.’
It’s a combined effort, with PCSOs speaking to people in Commercial Road and the force support unit backing up the routine nighttime economy patrols.
While a lot of focus is on Guildhall Walk and the city centre, patrols are covering London Road in North End and areas in Cosham.
But it’s not long before five officers are called to an incident outside the One Eyed Dog in Elm Grove, Southsea.
A man dressed as Father Christmas is being quizzed by the officers, and he’s soon put into the back of a police van.
In all, just three assaults and two public order incidents linked to the nighttime economy were reported during the night.
Supporting the police are the church-led street pastors, also out for the night giving advice and helping those a bit worse for wear.
Don Tocher and his wife Kim, both 51 and from Denmead, have been street pastors for five years.
‘We go out and we’re looking for someone who needs help and it could be somebody, mostly young people, who have had too much to drink,’ Don said.
He adds: ‘We offer support to the homeless too.’