ALCOHOL-fuelled fights, drugs, and domestic violence. Welcome to a Friday night out in Huntingdonshire as experienced every week by Cambridgeshire police and last week by Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly. The politician spent Friday night on patrol with of
ALCOHOL-fuelled fights, drugs, and domestic violence.
Welcome to a Friday night out in Huntingdonshire as experienced every week by Cambridgeshire police and last week by Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly.
The politician spent Friday night on patrol with officers covering major settlements in his constituency, when nearly all the incidents officers dealt with were drink or drug-related.
His shift, which lasted from 9pm on Friday until 3.30am on Saturday, allowed him to experience the breaking up of a fight in Huntingdon Market Square (leading to the arrest of an attacker who had struck someone with a bottle), the breaking up of a fight in St Neots, and an arrest for Class A drug possession.
Then there was an incident of domestic violence in Huntingdon, the apprehension of four youths smoking cannabis in Hartford, and the pursuit of someone trying to break into properties in Huntingdon.
"I had, of course, expected a certain degree of drunkenness and even fighting, but the level and intensity of the misbehaviour that I saw was an eye-opener for me," he said.
"I was very impressed with the way that the police handled every situation that we encountered in the evening, both in terms of response and the sensitive and professional attitude that they displayed in often highly combustive and potentially violent situations.
"We have relatively few police to cover a very large rural area. Indeed, during the course of the evening we were backwards and forwards between Huntingdon, St Neots, Godmanchester and Brampton at least half a dozen times.
"The incidents that we attended were, I was told, quite typical for a warm summer's evening. However, they are also quite typical of what you will find in towns around the whole country, namely, the incidents and problems relating to misuse of drugs and alcohol."
On a typical Friday night Cambridgeshire police will deal with around 70 alcohol-related incidents.
Although Mr Djanogly has supported the deployment of more officers since he was first elected in 2001 - the numbers have continued to rise consistently - he believes there are underlying cultural issues to criminality that also need to be addressed.
"Why do [some] young people want to spend their money on getting drunk and then fighting and destroying property and so forth? That goes to education and prevention, issues that have to be addressed in the community. It's happening in the schools, and shops are much more aware than they used to be about working with the police and trading standards."
The MP is particularly impressed by the Community Alcohol Project in St Neots that has been very effective in reducing under-age drinking and has been copied elsewhere in Britain and has attracted interest from across Europe.
"I found the amount of violence to be an eye-opening experience," he told The Hunts Post. "Generally speaking, the problem is not in the pubs and night-clubs, but when people come out and then don't go home. There may be a licensing issue here about hours, and also getting bar staff to play their part," he suggested.
People were no longer prepared to turn a blind eye to street drinking, as they had been as recently as 10 years ago, he added.