Police say Hartlepool’s Church Street has been the scene of a catalogue of serious violence in the last year-and-a-half.
In the last 18 months, there have been 18 incidents in the area alone, of which eight were particularly serious, with injuries including a broken cheek bone, broken nose, fractured eye socket and a jaw broken so badly that it required surgery.
One victim was hit with a glass bottle and another was glassed to the side of the face.
All the most serious incidents were alcohol-related.
Details of the injuries emerged as councillors considered an application for a new off-licence in the street to be permitted to sell alcohol as late as 11pm.
Applicant Krishnajeyasiri Sagayamlar told a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee that the shop would actually only be trading to 10pm and he was prepared to stop selling strong beers and ciders an hour earlier, but committee members agreed to limit the licence to 9pm after hearing police objections.
Licensing officers PC Yasmeen Hussain and Sgt Paul Higgins outlined the police objections to the application.
PC Hussain told the committee: “There was a total of 18 incidents in 18 months - that is purely Church Street, it is not the surrounding streets.
“Thirty-six people were arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Church Street alone.
“These are the kinds of incidents we are dealing with on a regular basis in the night-time economy.”
Sgt Higgins said the force was concerned about people who had gone to the area being able to get alcohol more cheaply than in the surrounding pubs and bars and ‘pre-loading’.
“It is a big difficulty nationally, pre-loading, that people consume alcohol before they go out,” he said.
“They will have been drinking for a long time. We know pre-loading is happening now but the issue with these premises is it is localising it to Church Street, and giving people the opportunity to get alcohol at off-licence prices.”
Outlining the reasons for restricting the sale of alcohol to 9pm, chairman Coun Ray Martin-Wells said: “The committee are not convinced that granting a licence up until 11pm would meet the licensing objectives of this authority.
“Furthermore, the committee were deeply concerned at no information being offered relating to the promotion of the four licensing objectives, which include the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm.”
Community safety chiefs say they have seen a fall in the number of incidents of drink related violence has fallen in recent years.
The Safer Hartlepool Partnership brings together a number of agencies, including Hartlepool Borough Council and Cleveland Police, to tackle crime and disorder and to promote community safety generally.
A spokesman for the partnership said: ‘Violent crime linked to the consumption of alcohol in the town centre on a night time has fallen significantly over recent years.
“However, the evidence provided by Cleveland Police at the recent hearing was an indication that incidents do still occur and that the licensing of an off-licence until 11pm in Church Street would not promote the prevention of crime and disorder licensing objective and, therefore, may undermine the excellent work that is currently being done to make the town centre safer.”
Cleveland Police Chief Inspector Tariq Ali said: “We carry out regular patrols as part of night time economy operations in the Church Street and Hartlepool town centre area throughout the night on weekends, as well as other activities carried out by our colleagues in licensing.
“Hartlepool has a very busy night time economy and the vast majority of people are well behaved.”