Police warn of drunken violence epidemic

A POLICE chief has raised fears that someone will be killed after revealing a shocking dossier of alcohol-fuelled violence in a seaside town.

A POLICE chief has raised fears that someone will be killed after revealing a shocking dossier of alcohol-fuelled violence in a seaside town.

Regular fights as drunken revellers spill out of seafront pubs and clubs in Lowestoft have been logged by overstretched police and now action is being taken to crack down on the trouble.

It came to a head earlier this month when workers from a kebab house were recorded on council CCTV security cameras allegedly arming themselves with knives as at least 10 people fought inside and outside the shop.

While there is no evidence staff instigated the trouble, Acting Inspector Nick Aitken, of Lowestoft police, used the fracas as evidence of why he fears a dangerous escalation in violence.

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He said: “The staff came out of the shop armed with knives. There is nothing to stop the youths picking up a weapon, coming back and escalating the situation, at which point we could be dealing with something much more serious - we could be dealing with a murder.”

Mr Aitken was giving evidence at a Waveney District Council licensing meeting during which he successfully applied for a reduction in the opening hours of the Charcoal Grill takeaway in Station Square.

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The police took specific action against the owners after records showed officers had been called to deal with fights and disorder, inside or close to the takeaway, a total of 73 times between January 2006 and May this year.

The application to the council, which issues licences to traders, said the fact the Charcoal Grill opened until 3am from Wednesday to Saturday meant it was a focal point for people leaving nearby pubs and clubs.

Concerns were also raised that staff had refused to give evidence after a police officer was assaulted by a customer and that the takeaway's CCTV cameras had not operated for long periods.

Mr Aitken said: “The Charcoal Grill has been flagged up to us as a problem premises. A lot of people are involved in the fighting and a lot of them are intoxicated.”

He added the policing of the seafront area on Friday and Saturday nights stretched resources elsewhere in the town. Figures for 2007 show about a fifth of assaults in Lowestoft could be linked to the night-time economy.

He said the policy of monitoring takeaway owners was new and that a recent meeting was held to explain to them the important role they had in helping maintain law and order.

Officers are also monitoring if there has been an increase in violence because some clubs are now opening until 3am as a result of the government's relaxation of licensing laws.

Waveney's licensing premises panel ruled the Charcoal Grill would now have to shut at 2am and employ door security staff between midnight and closing times from Wednesday to Saturday.

Giving evidence to the panel, the Charcoal Grill's licence holder, Kemal Demirci, said: “We don't cause the problems. Fights are happening all the time in the town and at all times of day.

“Like everyone else, we want to go home early to our families, but we have to make a living.”

Mr Demirci insisted his CCTV had been upgraded and denied his staff went out into the street armed with knives, although Mr Aitken said CCTV evidence proved otherwise.

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