Heath: The work of Leeds’ Community Safety Initiative

ON THE SCENE: Imran Shah and Matthew Haddon put their skills into practice.
ON THE SCENE: Imran Shah and Matthew Haddon put their skills into practice.
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Every Saturday 70,000 people pour into Leeds to enjoy the city centre’s vibrant nightlife.

This influx, many of whom will be drinking heavily, puts huge pressure on the emergency services – but one voluntary service aims to relieve this.

Katie Baldwin saw them in action

THEY do everything from picking up bottles to stopping crimes and saving lives.

This isn’t one of the official emergency services – though their work is invaluable to the police and ambulance services.

The Community Safety Initiative (CSI) helps ensure that revellers coming into Leeds city centre on Friday and Saturday nights are kept safe.

Started by former nightclub doorman Imran Shah, he has seen first-hand some of the issues that can arise among the hordes hitting the bars and clubs.

That inspired him to set up the scheme which offers treatment to those who sustain minor injuries during a night out.

“I used to work on the doors but I wanted to work in the city centre doing something a bit more constructive,” he said.

The aim is to prevent ambulances having to be attend incidents unnecessarily, which is often the case.

Paramedics may be called out to people with a bump on the head, a minor cut or even for little reason at all by those whose judgement has been skewed by drink.

Imran and his CSI team can step in and offer treatment, and as they are based within the city centre, are there in super-quick time.

He and colleague Matthew Hadden are trained community responders for Yorkshire Ambulance Service but use their skills during their volunteer work with the CSI.

Imran has also undergone additional training which has helped in the 600 incidents he has dealt with, ranging from the minor to those with potentially dangerous consequences.

Sometimes he is first on the scene – such as one where a man had his nose bitten off, who he took to hospital.

“Another time we had a guy who was trying to jump off onto a motorway and we kept him safe until the police got there,” he said.

“There have been lots of circumstances where we have actually kept people alive before an ambulance comes. It’s just basic life support but it can be so helpful.”

Not all the casualties are alcohol-related. Recently they helped a girl who was having an epileptic fit.

“I think we have saved over 500 ambulances from having to come out,” he said.

“In this economic climate, the less pressure we put on the emergency services, the more effective they can be.”

In addition to the medical support, CSI also provides other services for vulnerable clubgoers.

Home Safe ensures that people who may have had too much to drink get home safely.

Imran explained that they set it up after asking taxi drivers for the main reasons they refused to take passengers. These included because people had blood or vomit on their t-shirts – so he carries a stock of cheap t-shirts which he gives out to those who need to get home but may be otherwise unable to get a taxi.

If they spot a vulnerable person who doesn’t need medical treatment, if necessary his team will help them find a reputable cab, agree a fare and give them their number to get in touch with to let them know they have safely arrived back home.

As well as carrying basic medical kit, they also have equipment like tools to get into locked toilet cubicles when people have collapsed.

Simple measures like removing glass bottles – CSI volunteers have picked 3,000 from city centre streets – is another way to reduce the risk to revellers.

They also assist police officers in the city centre, passing on intelligence and providing a decontamination service.

More basic, but still important, support is also offered.

“We give soft drinks to officers,” said Imran.

“We also give refreshments to those who’ve had a bit too much to drink.”

Supporting those who have lost valuables or had them stolen while on nights out is another role.

“We help people to report their phones which have gone missing or their cards which are missing,” he added.

“We’ve probably given out the police non-emergency number more than 300 times.”

Imran, of north Leeds, is also involved in the charity Stop Hate UK, and when helping people on the streets also encourages them to report hate crimes. As well as that, he hands out information about a vast range of issues from domestic violence to debt worries.

Half of the funding for the Community Safety Initiative comes from local bars and pubs Sandinista, Santiago and the Wrens, while the other half comes from donations.

“I want to thank the bars because whether they’ve had an incident or not, they’ve contributed over the past five years,” Imran said.

As well as running CSI, Imran is involved in a number of other charities and organisations, including providing first aid support to a religious ritual carried out by a Bradford-based community which involves cutting the skin.

They have a doctor who works with them in Leeds city centre when possible, but Imran is also appealing for other volunteers come forward.

He said: “We would especially like more trauma or A&E nurses and doctors looking for experience in pre-hospital medicine.”

* For more information about joining the Community Safety Initiative, email: i.shah@idple.org

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