West Yorkshire’s high-profile Violence Reduction Unit, which is part of the Mayoral Combined Authority and leads a number of partner organisations across the county to tackle violent crime, has announced the launch of a pioneering licensing initiative designed to improve the safety and security of bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels.
A total of 300 specially selected licensed premises across the Bradford, Calderdale, Wakefield and Kirklees Metropolitan District Council areas are being invited to take part in the scheme, which encourages venues to improve their operational security and management practices year-on-year.
Indeed, West Yorkshire has become the first county in England and Wales to officially launch Licensing Security and Vulnerability Initiative (ie Licensing SAVI), which has been developed at the request of the Home Office by Police Crime Prevention Initiatives, itself a police-owned organisation working alongside the police service around the UK to deter and reduce crime.
Independent from the alcoholic drinks industry, Licensing SAVI is backed by the National Police Chiefs Council and Project Servator, the police-led vigilance scheme orchestrated to deter terrorist attacks at crowded places. Its aim is to provide safer and more secure venues for managers, staff, customers and local communities alike and to reduce the demand on hard-pressed police forces and NHS Ambulance Services as well as Accident and Emergency Departments.
Available to licensees as an online self-assessment, Licensing SAVI covers critical issues like responsible drinking, drugs misuse, violent behaviour and safeguarding vulnerable customers right through to preventing opportunist theft and improving physical security by way of the installation of security lighting and CCTV systems. Most measures included within Licensing SAVI can be introduced quickly and at little or no cost.
Consistent standards, guidance and advice
For the first time, Licensing SAVI provides consistent standards, guidance and advice that the managers of licensed premises in England and Wales need to adhere to in order meet the requirements of the Licensing Act 2003.
It actively promotes the four ‘Licensing Objectives’: the Prevention of Public Nuisance, the Prevention of Crime and Disorder; the Protection of Children from Harm and also Public Safety. Licensing SAVI includes a non-assessed guidance section on counter-terrorism and a COVID-19 risk assessment template for licensees to use if they so wish.
Licensees who complete the self-assessment will receive a Star Rating and can apply for Licensing SAVI accreditation as well as an award for display on the premises to show the efforts undertaken to enhance safety.
Licensing SAVI’s launch is timely because it can become part of a venue’s business recovery planning and as a refresher resource for the return of staff who/ve been furloughed, so too the recruitment and training of new staff to replace those who have left.
YouGov research (commissioned by Police Crime Prevention Initiatives) of 5,050 adults aged between 18 and 45 in England for the period 16 August through to 5 September were asked about safety in licensed premises, with safety defined as ‘where efforts have been made to prevent crime, reduce harm and where staff will support you if you are feeling vulnerable’.
The survey found that adults feel significantly less safe in licensed premises today than they did prior to the first national lockdown in March 2020. The fall in feeling safe was largest in nightclubs, where the numbers are down from 81% pre-pandemic to 48% and in bars and pubs from 93% to 64%.
Asked whether they agreed with the statement that ‘recent publicity around the safety of women and girls has made it more important for licensed premises to improve their safety procedures’, a total of 79% of adults agreed that they want safety improvements in nightclubs, while 76% of respondents want to see improvements in bars and pubs.
Support was greatest among women. In nightclubs, 83% of those females surveyed want improved safety compared to 75% of men. In bars and pubs, the percentage point difference was greater, with 81% of women wanting safety improvements compared to 70% of those males questioned.
Tackling violent crime
The Licensing SAVI initiative is being funded by the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, which seeks to tackle violent crime and the underlying causes of violent crime through early intervention, prevention and education by working closely with representatives of key partner organisations including healthcare bodies, the police and local government, education, youth justice, prisons, the probation service and core community groups.
The West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit is delivering the initiative in partnership with the West Yorkshire Public Health Reducing Violent Crime Network, which includes public health, police service and council licensing teams. This network is led by Chloe Froggett, knowledge hub manager for the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, and Emm Irving (manager for improving population health at the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership).
Chief superintendent Jackie Marsh, director of the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, said: “Given the unprecedented experience that the sector has endured over the past year or so, it’s really important that we’re able to support venues across the county in providing a safe environment in which they can operate. By funding this initiative and anticipating any potential issues, we can give premises the knowledge, security and confidence they require that will ultimately work to reduce the incidence of violent crime and associated issues.”
Marsh went on to comment: “Aside the backdrop of preventing violence against women and girls, and also kick-starting the night-time economy, this partnership approach represents another step in the right direction.”
Sarah Muckle, director of public health for Bradford Council and lead public health director for the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, explained: “We’re proud of the partnership involving the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit and, indeed, all of the joint work that’s taking place. Providing a safe and secure environment for local communities is a priority for us all. Giving local businesses good guidance to keep their premises safe and secure is one way in which we can help to achieve this.”
Mark Morgan, business lead for Licensing SAVI and a former police superintendent, added: “I look forward to supporting the West Yorkshire region with the Licensing SAVI initiative, which will contribute to safer licensed premises and reduced alcohol-related violence.”