.It’s not every weekend I get a police escort to Bunker, an officer-endorsed queue-jump at Mbargo, and witness a fight outside Syndicate. Well, okay – maybe the last one.

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Photo: Chris Frewin https://www.flickr.com/photos/fatmandy/

I experienced all three on Saturday night.

Written by George Lewis (@George_Lewis)

Edited by Oscar Taylor-Kent (@MrOscarTK)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent either The WesternEye or Avon & Somerset Constabulary

The Avon and Somerset constabulary invited me to see first-hand a new scheme directed at reducing thefts in pubs and clubs. There were 27 ‘thefts from person’ in the city centre over the previous weekend – usually there’s only around 47 in an entire week.

The thefts have recently been linked to national gang activities – these are professional criminal operations. Individuals case out clubs, look for opportunities and then seize them. Unattended bags and phones in back pockets are their main targets. Once stolen, they report back to the operation’s leader (also in the club) and hand over the property. This continues until they have ruined a suitable number of people’s nights. Once they’ve left the club, they jump in with a getaway driver and the phones could be anywhere in the country within a day.

In the last bust, stolen phones were tracked all the way to the organisation’s base in Essex. Members were essentially going on road trips, but with less Eurotrip-like antics and more The Transporter-like crime sprees. Jason Statham would be the bad guy in this example. Roll with it.

Avon & Somerset’s approach to tackling the thefts is multi-pronged. One or two officers enter the club and look for suspicious activity. Some will educate people in the queue to keep their bags close and look after their belongings. Others will attempt to communicate with party-goers and help sign them up for Immobilise, the lost property service. Basically, they’re getting phone numbers in clubs. Serial numbers, but still, it counts.

You can sign up for Immobilise at any time, it only takes 2 minutes, and it makes finding your lost or stolen phone a much easier process for both you and the police. If drunk people can do it, you can too. You don’t have to get drunk to sign up, but you know. You do you, man. (www.immobilise.com)

The new scheme undoubtedly works – on Friday night there were 0 reported incidents of theft in clubs and pubs. One of the officers I talked to mentioned that this was likely down to the additional support that the force received this weekend from the Special Constables – a large collection of people who volunteer their time to public service in the police force for free. The additional resources combined with the new scheme enabled the operation to run perfectly, basically removing all instances of theft in city centre clubs & pubs. The scheme clearly works, and if the police had that level of resources every weekend, crime would take a massive hit in the city.

It wasn’t all facts and figures, however. The night was quite an experience – the following is how it all went down.

First of all, let me tell you – clubs are hell when you’re sober. If there is anyone out there that doesn’t pre-drink before heading out, you deserve all the medals. Have some trophies too. Nice work. Knowing that I’d be visiting some clubs, I considered getting completely trashed before leaving the house. But as that may have made a bad impression I decided against it, and met up with the team that I would shadow for the evening.

Now, I’ve never been in a police car before (I always get away before I’m apprehended), but it’s surprisingly normal. Apart from the siren buttons and the police computer. Think of it as a taxi but with no choice in destination except ‘the station’. Also the passengers aren’t your drunk mates fumbling over their £2.50 share of the fee, but police officers tired of your drunk rambling. It goes without saying that there’s no eating or drinking in this taxi. I did look for some kind of ‘fire guns’ or ‘ejector seat’ button, but no luck. “Budget cuts,” I thought.

Arriving at the top of Park Street, we headed to Mbargo. The Sergeant had a quiet word with the doorman, and we were in. Queue-jumping is always appreciated, but I wondered if we could have also sprung for a VIP table too. At least a bottle of champagne. Use the badge to its full potential, you know? These were very morally good cops, however. Inside, patrons were looking me up and down trying to figure out whether I was under arrest or some kind of secret badass undercover cop. I assumed the latter, obviously. I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible by leaning on a shelf and letting my gaze wander. This had the adverse effect of making me look like an actual suspect, and I would have probably been questioned if I wasn’t in the immediate presence of an officer. I considered asking for a glass of water and pretending it was vodka, but I only achieved a B grade in GCSE drama and that was above my skill-set.

At one point, a guy asked the Sergeant if he could borrow his hat. He then proceeded to take what I could only describe as a plethora of selfies with it. Some with the hat backwards. Some with it in his hands. Some with the Sergeant. This guy’s selfie game was ridiculous. On a scale from ‘Michael Gove with schoolchildren’ to ‘Ellen at the Oscars’, this was definitely an ‘Obama at Mandela’s Funeral’. But like, in a good way.

I asked a PCSO if that happened a lot, and he replied that the hat spends more time off his head than on it. I suggested that the police move into the hat-selling business, which would probably fund the entire force for at least the next century. If you see the London Met doing that – know that it originated here in Bristol first.

Moving on to the next club, we had to dodge a surprising number of smashed people. Keep in mind – I was only there from 11 to 12. How are you trashed at 11:30? Step up your game, people. (Drink responsibly). The wet weather seemed to keep people in a pretty quiet mood, though. There must be like zero crime in the ocean. The team decided to move on to the centre, so we took a casual ride down Park Street. That was until the Sergeant received a call.

Lights on. Sirens on. There’s a fight. A smile appears on my face like I’m Nick Frost’s character in Hot Fuzz. “You ain’t seen Bad Boys II?” lights up in my head, and I secretly giggle. We race past the Hippodrome, and it all makes sense – it was outside Syndicate. Of course. I feel like Syndicate fights are just an ingrained part of Bristol culture now. And it’s literally around the corner from the police station. Can you not possibly pick a more secretive place to fight? The officers spill from both sides of the car, and I’m quietly hoping for gunshots and explosions. Apparently the police prefer to ‘ask questions first’ now, which I guess I understand. I thank the Sergeant, leave them to diffuse the situation, and walk back to my car. I suddenly snap back to reality when I see the parking charges.

£12.30 for two hours?!

Still.

Worth it.

 

I have compiled a list of tips to prevent you from being a victim of crime. Feel free to use them as long as you hold nobody legally responsible for their outcomes. 

  • On a night out, replace your iPhone with a Nokia 3310. If anyone can physically pick up a 3310, they deserve it
  • Just carry bees in your bag everywhere. If anyone opens your bag – boom, bees
  • Cover your phone completely in red paint. If you catch someone stealing it you can use the classic ‘caught you red-handed’ line. Classic
  • Carry the ID of the thief that will steal your wallet – once they open the wallet they will have an existential crisis and probably turn themself in
  • Sell all of your possessions and live a transient lifestyle free from the trappings of western capitalist society
  • Simply register your belongings on Immobilise. This one is serious
  • Remove your need to carry keys by removing all of the locks from your house and car
  • The bees one, but with wasps

Thanks to Sergeant Sean Underwood and PCSOs Lisa & Neil at Avon & Somerset Constabulary’s Bridewell police station for allowing me to accompany them for the evening.