Councillors have called for more police resources to be allocated to Leeds city centre amid concerns about the uglier side of its thriving night time economy.
It follows a report presented to Leeds City Council’s licensing committee, which revealed public order offences in the centre had risen by 103 per cent in a year.
Police analysis of the figures revealed that two areas packed with bars, clubs and takeaways were the source of half of all crime and disorder reported in the city centre at weekends.
Yet Leeds was recently awarded Purple Flag status through a national scheme which recognises excellence in managing night time economies.
In a letter to West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, the committee said it remained “concerned and disappointed” about the increase in violent crime in the year to August 2016.
Coun Graham Hyde, writing on the behalf of the committee, said: “Despite assurances that agencies and the trade are working together, the members are of the opinion that police resources within the busy night time economy are inadequate.
Police resources within the busy night time economy are inadequate.Coun Graham Hyde, Leeds City Council licensing committee
“Members have recently joined police colleagues on Operation Capitol, conducting night time patrols of the city centre and, therefore, have a firsthand account of the strains that are put on the police, in particular when all resources are directed to a serious incident.”
He acknowledged the good work being done, but said the committee wanted to see extra police deployed there at night.
And he stressed that allocating more officers to the ‘red zone’ areas must not be at the expense of the force’s ability to police other areas of the district.
The two problems areas are Lower Briggate/Call Lane/Duncan Street and Albion Street/Woodhouse Lane, which account for 35 per cent and 15 per cent respectively when it comes to crime and disorder at weekends.
Police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said he had seen some of the challenges himself when he spent a night with Leeds Street Angels and the city centre policing team. He also reported back to a council scrutiny committee working group last week alongside Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: “It’s in everyone’s interest to keep Leeds city centre a vibrant, successful and, most importantly, safe place.”
He said comprehensive work was taking place between businesses, police, the council and other community safety bodies to look at tackling the issues and what additional resources could be secured.
He also highlighted provisions in the 2017/18 budget he had set for West Yorkshire, which will allows for the recruitment of around 500 police officers and protection of PCSO numbers.
Acknowledging the challenges, Chief Supt Money said more people than ever were being attracted to the city as the number of venues increased significantly.
He said: “We have had to develop how we task and deploy our officers at peak times, and, at a more strategic level, we are continuing to work proactively with key partners to adapt to this evolving situation.”
A recent strategy meeting involving other agencies had identified potential areas for improvement, he said.
On the Purple Flag status, he added: “The policing operation in the city has been described as ‘exemplary’ in the independent assessment, so it’s clear there is already a lot of good work going on that we can build on.”