New team tackles drunken revellers in Islington

Late night levy

Late night levy - Credit: Archant

The Gazette goes out on patrol with Islington’s newly launched Late Night Levy team

Late night levy

Late night levy - Credit: Archant

As we watched the van-load of girls tumble out onto the pavement with litre bottles of pre-mixed alcohol in hand, it quickly became apparent that – as police predicted – this would indeed be one of the busiest weekends in the lead up to New Year’s Eve.

Fortunately, Islington Police now have some help in managing the partygoers and some of the 1,300 licensed venues in the form of the newly launched Late Night Levy (LNL) team, who will patrol with officers from Thursdays to Sundays.

Funded by a charge imposed on venues which sell alcohol between the hours of 12am and 6am, Islington’s team of four Operation Nightsafe patrol officers, along with a co-ordinating police sergeant, have been in action for several weeks after the levy was enforced by the council at the beginning of November.

Paul Convery, executive member for community safety, who also joined the operation on the night the Gazette went out on patrol, stressed the initial success of the LNL team.

He said: “So far, the Late Night Levy team are doing everything we’d hoped for. They are cracking down on the increased night-time problems we see during the Christmas and New Year periods. They are providing reassurance for residents in Islington, venues and other members of the public in fixing the problems as visible officers on the ground.

“These officers are getting the message through to licensed premises that Islington police and the council are working together and are serious about enforcing against excessive alcohol use to the point where things go wrong.”

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Det Ch Supt Gerry Campbell, borough commander for Islington, also emphasised the need for such an initiative to enforce responsible drinking in Islington.

He said: “I want people to come to Islington to spend money and support local businesses. I want people to enjoy all the great places Islington has for drinking and socialising, but to enjoy them responsibly.”

As “the extra set of eyes for the police”, the LNL team, including a trained first aid officer, are responsible for engagement and enforcement of venues and partygoers.

On seeing patrol officers gathered outside the bar they were about to enter, the group of girls swiftly hid their bottles behind their minicab, before it moved off to reveal the stash.

But Pc Paul Hoppe, licensing officer for Islington Police, said it was significant that the revellers had attempted to hide their booze.

He said: “The Late Night Levy Team are there as the uniformed presence of the police, and provide that extra and often more subtle level of engagement, enforcement and information gathering that emergency response teams might not have time to do.

“The girls hiding their alcohol like that shows a healthy respect for the work that these officers are doing and that they can make a real difference in tackling Islington’s night time economy issues.”

Indeed, last year, crime figures for Islington showed that there were 519 alcohol-related offences in Islington between the hours of 12am and 6am, translating to roughly 10 incidents per week.

As well as visiting known anti-social behaviour hotspots throughout the night, we followed the LNL team as they caught an unlicensed taxi attempting to pick up partygoers, as well as disbanding a brief scuffle between a group of men outside a venue on Upper street.

A £250,000 mobile welfare unit was a centrepiece of the operation, and will continue to park up in key locations across the New Year period.

Designed to provide “an accessible point of contact” and welfare facilities, including tea and basic medical treatment for those who might have had too much to drink, the van will become an invaluable resource for easing the pressure off police and ambulance services. Islington is the third local authority to implement the Late Night Levy after Liverpool and Cheltenham.

Cllr Convery said: “We are the first borough in London to roll out the Late Night Levy initiative and I like to think we are leading the way for other boroughs to implement what has been a successful idea so far.”