POLICE figures show that drink-related violence has dramatically dropped in Hartlepool in recent years - but there is still room for improvement after high-profile incidents over the summer.
Inspector Carl Peters from Cleveland Police told the committee that violence was at a peak in 2006, with 599 incidents recorded in Hartlepool town centre.
That dropped to 230 in 2012/13, and from April 1 last year to March 31 this year, 198 drink-related violence against the person incidents were recorded in the town centre.
It was acknowledged, however, that there are far fewer people in the pubs now than there were a decade ago.
The figures only relate to the streets around Hartlepool’s drinking areas, mainly Church Street and Victoria Road, and focus on violence against the person between 9pm-6am.
They do not include other crimes such as mobile phone thefts or criminal damage.
Insp Peters said: “The figures have fallen, however as the years have gone on that reduction has been slowing and it appears to be bottoming out.
“We would predict a slight increase in the figures next year judging by the incidents recorded in the first part of this financial year.
“You will be aware there have been a number of incidents over the summer, with eight cases of violence where victims needed significant hospital treatment.
“Two of those occurred after 4am, one of which was a tragic death of a gentleman by the name of Mark Dixon.
“Six of the incidents occurred after 2am. Although violent crime hasn’t risen of any note, it is clear that the violent crime occurs very late at night.”
Councillor Peter Jackson praised the various agencies for playing a part in bringing the figures down, but expressed concerns that police cuts would see fewer officers on duty around the town’s drinking hotspots.
Sgt Paul Higgins replied: “It is more difficult now to get officers out onto the town than it used to be.
“When the shift changes, they are often busy on the early part of the shift. The nightshift who go on at 10pm often have to deal with jobs from the earlier part of the day. But we are looking at ways of getting more people out sooner, as we recognise that early intervention is important.”
When asked if the police would welcome the introduction of an EMRO, Insp Peters replied: “Yes. But we understand the difficulties and complications in obtaining an EMRO, so it is ultimately a decision for the council.”
Licensing chief Ian Harrison said the drop in figures would make any calls for an EMRO more difficult to be a success.
Home Office guidelines say any local authority asking for an EMRO to be brought in would need to have significant concerns about “the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the prevention of children from harm”.
Mr Harrison said: “Any legal challenge against us asking for an EMRO would have a very good chance of succeeding because of the drop in figures. There is a hostile drinks industry out there, including brewers and pub chains, who could bring a judicial review.
“They would use the 70 per cent drop in violent crime against the person to say the later licenses had worked.”