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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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On the streets for ‘Black Eye Friday’

By Richard MachinIF you listen to some people, the world could still end tonight, but if that’s bothering anyone in Barrow town centre they are not showing it.

In Dalton Road a man shouts “It’s Christmas” with a throaty roar that would make Noddy Holder proud and further up the street a group of young men leapfrog over the bike racks cooing like pigeons. Oblivion might be on their minds, but oblivion through drink rather than Armageddon.

In Barrow police station Acting Inspector Ian McClymont is hoping to avoid any apocalyptic scenes. Despite police efforts to re-brand it as “festive” rather than “black eye” Friday, tonight is still a night where the potential for trouble is never far away.

“It’s like a run of the mill Saturday, with the potential for more extreme drunkenness,” says Acting Insp McClymont, as he briefs the night shift which is about to hit the streets.

One of the key tasks for tonight is to engage people early and, if necessary, get them out of the town centre or in the cells before they can cause any serious trouble.

And, of course, it is a matter of keeping an eye on the regular troublemakers who are all too familiar, if not friendly, faces.

Acting Insp McClymont uses a whiteboard to run through a rogues’ gallery of those either banned from the town centre, known as prior offenders, or who are barred from pubs under the Furness Barwatch scheme.

“Whatever the weather, he will at some stage take his shirt off to demonstrate how good his body is,” he says of one of them.

“He also has the habit of talking to you when he has his hands down the front of his trousers.”

Another is known to regularly try to flout his bans by blagging his way into pubs and another is so annoying to people that he doesn’t commit assaults but is often a victim of them.

However, it is important to remember that most are out to be festive rather than to give someone a black eye.

“Remember to take things with a bit of humour and have a talk with people who want to have a bit of banter,” says Acting Insp McClymont.

“Have a bit of a light-hearted approach; it is Christmas.”

In town the festive spirit is flowing freely.

Constables Craig Barrass and Heath Tyson are welcomed to Cavendish Street’s Theatre Bar more like minor celebrities than the long arm of the law. Within minutes photos of them posing with a selection of fun-seekers have been taken and are probably even now adorning social networking sites across the internet.

“People love to get pictures with us for some bizarre reason,” comments PC Barrass, extricating himself from another affectionate reveller.

“We don’t mind that, we like to show we’re not robots and under the uniforms we are just human beings.”

Mike Fallon, owner of the Theatre Bar and chair of the Barrow and District Licensed Victuallers Association, is keeping an eye on the clientele flowing into his establishment.

Like the police, he says problems can be avoided by barring known troublemakers.

“After being in the game 20-odd years I know who I don’t want in and so I pass that on to the door staff,” he says.

“When large gangs of lads come along, we are full. So far tonight we have not had an ounce of trouble.”

However, as experienced PC Heath Tyson knows, the night is still young.

“It is all smiles now, but later on there could be verbal altercations over something that was said earlier in the night and then they are swinging at each other,” he says.

However, it is not fighting but drugs that prompt the first arrest of the night.

Dog handler PC Glenn Myerscough has stopped a 21-year-old and found a bag of unidentified white powder.

The man is arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance and given “street” bail, which means he has to return to the police station on December 30. A decision on charges will be made when the police can determine exactly what the powder is.

As the night matures and the booze levels heighten, the next call out is to Bar Five, in Dalkeith Street, where a man has to be manhandled out.

After a calming exchange with police he is given a Section 27 notice, barring him from the town centre for 10 hours. The 34-year-old leaves, but is soon back again, lurching his way towards the very police who sent him on his way.

Predictably, he is immediately arrested and bundled into the back of the police van.

“Beep”, he drunkenly says to himself as he hears the beeping of a passing car as he rides in the police van on the way to the cells.

PC Barrass is again an object of affection as the man is processed before going to sleep it off.

“I love you, you’re a good lad,” the man slurs, giving PC Barrass a friendly pat on the shoulder.

On Dalkeith Street again the work continues as a man is caught in flagrante taking a pee next to the pavement and another man who is so drunk he can’t stand is helped into an ambulance.

It might not be the end of the world, but it looks like tonight will certainly keep the police busy.

Outside the Barrow Arms, pub-goer Becky Shaw, 24, is pleased to the see them.

“I used to have a negative feeling for them, but they are here to do a job and they are nice enough,” she says. “They are like ‘You can have a good night, but be safe’.”

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