RISING crime in one of York’s drinking hotspots has led to calls for tighter restrictions on the sale of alcohol in the area.
Statistics from North Yorkshire Police show the Back Swinegate area was the scene of 215 crimes last year including 51 assaults and three sexual offences.
There were 177 antisocial behaviour incidents, many of them drink-fuelled, which pulled police away from other parts of the city.
Licensing officers said violent crime, criminal damage, alcohol-related trouble and thefts in the area had increased over the last three years, and a fifth of all thefts within the Bar Walls have happened there. The area has 50 bars, pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises.
They want City of York Council’s Cumulative Impact Zone (CIZ) to be expanded to cover Back Swinegate, as well as Goodramgate and Fossgate which would make it harder for new premises to get a licence or for existing venues to stay open longer. A consultation on the issue ends next month.
A police objection to an application by Macumba, in Coffee Yard, to extend its licence which will be discussed this week showed crime in Back Swinegate peaks between midnight and 3am, with antisocial behaviour at its height between 11pm and 1am. The figures are in documents sent to the council.
PC Mick Wilkinson, York’s police licensing officer, said: “We’ve identified Back Swinegate, Goodramgate and Fossgate as areas where we can associate alcohol with crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, which has a direct effect on policing of the city as a whole.
“We have got enough licensed premises in this area now. There are enough venues where people can go and get alcohol. Including Back Swinegate and other areas in the CIZ would not be a blanket ban.
“If a restaurant wanted to serve alcohol between 10am and 6pm, we wouldn’t have a problem with that. But it places the onus on applicants to show why a new licence would not directly affect policing.
“The figures speak for themselves. We are having to take officers away from other areas and into the city centre to deal with these incidents.”
Of the 51 assaults in the Back Swinegate area during 2013, more than half led to an injury. There were also eight burglaries, three vehicle break-ins, 112 thefts and 23 criminal damage offences.
Of the 215 crimes, 113 were committed on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and March was the worst month.
Jane Mowat, Safer York Partnership director, said York was unusual because of its number of city-centre homes, particularly around Back Swinegate. “Extending the CIZ is a proven method of managing levels of crime and antisocial behaviour associated with licensed premises, while also preserving quality of life for residents within that area.”
Tim Madgwick, North Yorkshire Police’s deputy chief constable, and the council’s chief executive, Kersten England, visited city centre bars and restaurants on Friday evening as part of moves to improve York’s night-time economy while tackling anti-social behaviour.
Deputy Chief Constable Madgwick said: “We are committed to maintaining the balance between the majority who want nothing more than a fun night out and the small minority determined to cause trouble.”
Ms England said bars, restaurants and other night-time venues needed to be supported as major employers creating “important revenue”, but residents’ concerns also had to be recognised.