Volunteers plea to stop trouble
CALLS are being made for volunteers to be brought in to help tackle late-night violence in Hanley city centre.
The volunteers could be used to step into disputes between drinkers and pick up litter outside Hanley's pubs and clubs.
It would be seen as an extension of the Street Pastors scheme which sees Christian volunteers out in the city centre at night looking out for vulnerable drinkers.
But calls are being made for bar and club owners to pay for the training needed for the volunteers.
It comes as Staffordshire Police are paying out £520,000-a-year on late-night policing costs in Hanley.
City Councillor Randy Conteh, who has come up with the volunteers idea, said: "The Street Pastors work because they build up relations and can relate to the people in the street.
"They are not seen as a threat or authoritative in the same way as police or door staff.
"If the statutory bodies have issues around funding then I am extremely keen to give the voluntary services more support.
"I think the way forward is more around the volunteers working with the Safer City Partnership and the police. And I think the bar owners and city venues should contribute towards it financially."
Police deploy around 13 officers to the city centre on Friday, Saturday and Monday nights.
Superintendent Laurie Whitby-Smith said: "We have a high number of licensed places in a small geographical area and limited offers on drinks promotions.
"This has encouraged a binge drinking culture that has been accepted as the norm."
Local authorities now have the power to charge a night-time levy on late-opening pubs and clubs to go towards policing costs.
But Mr Conteh's proposal has been criticised by bar owners who say they already pay their way in taxes.
Father-of-two Jason Nixon, aged 38, of Blurton, who owns The Foyer Bar, in Trinity Street, today labelled the plan "unfeasible".
He said: "I think it would be a waste of time to bring volunteers in and none of the bars would want to pay for their training.
"We are already being squeezed and pay our business rates.
"To me it is penalising the wrong people because a lot of the mess comes from takeaways and not bars.
"The cheap drinks deals attract a different crowd and those people have got no respect for the police or for the mess they make."
Latest figures show police investigated 771 incidents of violent crime in the city centre last year – with 571 of the incidents committed between 9pm and 6am.
The majority of the violent crime commonly breaks out between 11pm and 4am on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, with offences including assault, public order offences and sexual offences.
The highest proportion of violent crime is committed in Trinity Street.