COUNCIL Bristol City Council
AWARD Winner, LGC Awards 2007
Alcohol-related violence has become an unwelcome visitor in many of the UK's town centres during weekends.
With people gathering outside pubs and clubs after an evening of alcohol-fuelled fun, it is not surprising that the streets become a stage for anti-social behaviour.
In Bristol city centre, an innovative and cost-effective approach has turned the situation around. Nightsafe - a partnership between the police, the council, First Bus and the licensed taxi trade - has brought marshals to the streets, taxi ranks and public transport.
The initiative, which was the first of its kind in the UK, was set up in 2004. The marshals are sourced and managed by security company Safe and Sound.
Every Friday and Saturday night, the marshals, readily identifiable in fluorescent coats and equipped with walkie-talkies, meet and greet passengers arriving at the taxi ranks and ensure orderly queuing. They also board buses and walk the streets to dissipate potential incidents.
The presence of marshals has reduced incidents at taxi ranks and on buses
'There has been a significant reduction in male aggression and the number of violent
incidents around the taxi ranks,' says Helen Flyng, project manager of the Safer Bristol Partnership. 'No serious incident has been recorded on the buses since the marshals started. And we have had positive feedback from the public, especially from women who feel reassured they can get home safely.'
Positive results have encouraged the partnership to expand the scheme further, and there are plans to take the scheme to more 'hot spots' within the city.
Ms Flyng puts the success of Nightsafe down to the partnership, as well as the attitude of marshals: 'We didn't want marshals to be 'soldier-like'. They are well trained and know how to deal with people.'
The use of CCTV and head-cameras make marshals feel safe when on patrol. A fixed
camera adjacent to taxi ranks records images of passengers and taxi licence plates, and the marshals are able to contact the council's CCTV control room via their radios.
The head-camera of street and bus marshals can be used to record anti-social behaviour for prosecution purposes, and are linked by walkie-talkie to taxi marshal colleagues and to the CCTV control room.
Before the scheme was implemented, an audit of the city centre was carried out and some changes were subsequently made to improve street lighting and the position of CCTV cameras. 'We wanted to create a safe environment for marshals, so that they felt safe and protected,' explains Ms Flyng.
The project has given taxi drivers more confidence to work in Bristol at night
Nightsafe has also helped to bring back many taxi drivers who had abandoned night work because of safety issues. More taxis means fewer people gathering in the streets, reducing the risk of anti-social behaviour. 'Getting more cabs in the city was one of our objectives,' says Ms Flyng. 'Drivers feel more
confident now, as they know marshals will not allow anyone who is not fit to travel, or who is drinking, smoking or eating, to get in a cab.'
The average cost for taxi rank marshals is estimated to be less than£23,000. The alternative was an increased police presence, which proved expensive and unsustainable.
'Crime has been reduced and people feel safer. Those were our two objectives and we can happily tick both boxes. The results have been encouraging and we will continue to build on this success,' says Ms Flyng.