Chief Inspector slams "startling increase" in Eastgate Street crimes
CRIME in the city centre has doubled now that pubs and clubs are allowed to serve alcohol around the clock.
Chief Inspector Richard Burge said trouble centres around takeaways where drunk people gather at the end of the night and that there has been a "startling increase" in crime.
And he believes the number of late-night eating venues has reached "saturation point" and a "culture change" is now needed to bring crime under control.
"Takeaways are a particular issue for us," he said.
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"It has been building up since the change in legislation [of pub and club opening hours]. We have seen a startling increase in crime." The law change in 2005 effectively allows venues to serve alcohol 24 hours a day, although, in practice, they are open until the early hours of the morning. For example, Liquid nightclub is open until 3.30am on Fridays and 4am on Saturdays.
Crime in Eastgate Street has leapt from 867 incidents since the law came in during 2005 to 2,550 incidents in 2011. Crime in all four gate streets has gone from 1,753 to 3,827.
Mr Burge said: "We have had some really serious problems.
"Fights, bags stolen and even the takeaway staff themselves being abused."
He has a minimum of seven officers on the streets at weekends and said they are often out until 5.30am dealing with troublemakers.
He said: "Our 20 cells are full pretty much every weekend.
"I'm not against takeaways but we have got such a huge amount of them and, in my view, we have got more than enough."
Gloucester police have recently opposed applications by takeaways such as Peri Peri Chickenland and Zam Zam Chicken, both in Southgate Street, to open beyond 11pm.
Mr Burge is pushing for the county council to shut off Eastgate Street to traffic on Friday and Saturday nights to help.
And he said there are plans to spend £400,000 improving CCTV and £43,000 on lighting to make the area safer.
He is unsure if the new late-night levy, which came into effect on Wednesday, will help.
It allows councils to charge late-night venues from just under £300 to £4,400 a year to cover the cost of policing.
But he said it will not apply to takeaways as they do not serve alcohol.