CORRESPONDENT editor Tony Bugby was invited to join Operation Nightsafe, a multi-agency initiative that targeted pubs, clubs, licensed premises and private hire taxis throughout Tameside.
POLICING Tameside’s 850 licensed premises, 350 pubs and one nightclub is, by the nature of those numbers, a massive logistical exercise.
And Tameside Council’s licencing officers, who work in tandem with the police and other agencies, work tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of the public.
One of their initiatives is Operation Nightsafe, that is held twice yearly, when the borough is swamped on a Friday evening.
Over the course of the latest night of intense activity, 36 premises were visited while 10 private hire taxis were spot-checked, with two licenses suspended due to the vehicles being unroadworthy.
Elsewhere other issues were relatively minor – two fire exits were blocked and one CCTV system was not operational.
The scale of the planning was underlined in the briefing before the operation swung into action.
Sharon Smith, head of public protection, outlined the objectives for the night with information packs handed out to those taking part. They contained background and other helpful information for guidance.
It was then time for the operation to swing into action as a convoy of cars and police motor cyclists departed the Tame Street depot with the garage open and on stand-by for private hire vehicle checks.
We – two licensing officers, Mo Shafiq from the Gambling Commission and two uniformed police officers to provide support – left in a mini bus.
Due to police resources being stretched due to United States President Donald Trump’s visit to the UK and holidays, it was a smaller operation than in December when 66 visits were made.
The Brit Stop was closed due to a number of breeches of the licencing conditions, Three off licenses also had their licences suspended due to irregularities.
Our first stop was a compliance check at a pub in Stalybridge where there had been previous issues.
It was a routine visit in which special wipes are used in the toilets to check for drugs while Mo scrutinised the gaming machines.
This entailed checking codes and they were operating correctly – the maximum payout is £100 in pubs and £250 in members’ clubs. They also have to be located in view of the bar.
It was a relatively quick visit as everything was in order.
We then headed to a club in Droylsden. While licencing officers discussed issues with committee members, I had a chance to chat to the accompanying special constables.
They are also involved in Operation Gritstone that is held each Friday night in which checks are made at pubs and clubs.
Licensing officer Mark Casey trawls the police log each Monday for incidents and any issues flagged up are acted upon with visits, either on the Friday or sooner if more serious.
One of the officers revealed the lighter side as he was once jumped upon by three women on a visit when mistaken for a stripagram. And in their determination to remove his clothing, the zip to his body armour was damaged beyond repair.
He also spoke of beer mats being thrown at them, but that has now ceased as drinkers have got to know them and appreciate the work they are doing is for their well-being.
Our last call was to a pub in Denton where a possible breach of a gaming licence was to be investigated further.
While we headed back to Tame Street for 9pm, some of the others remained on the road as Operation Nightsafe continued until midnight.