It’s a hub of activity almost seven days a week and attracts revellers from Wales and beyond, but Swansea’s Wind Street has long been in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Slammed as a “catalyst for violence” by a local Judge and the scene of alcohol-fuelled chaos photographed by national news organisations, Wind Street has become known for its vibrant nightlife.
In February 2011 figures revealed Wind Street to be the second-worst in the UK for all crime, and Superintendent Phil Davies of South Wales Police told This is South Wales anti-social behaviour (ASB) in the area has increased over the past 15 years.
With 873 incidents including theft, ASB and violent crime reported to police in 2011/12, and after yet another damning newspaper headline, is it time to clean up Wind Street?
Superintendent Phil Davies says the ambition is there: “I think there’s definitely the desire for it to become a more attractive night-time economy,” he said.
Supt Davies explained a number of measures are being introduced to tackle crime and ASB in Wind Street. Over the festive period urinals and bottle banks were for the first time installed at dropping off points where people coming from outside Swansea in buses and minibuses were taken.
This, Supt Davies explained, encouraged people to go to the toilet and dispose of bottles, while the drop off points gave police more control over the 100-plus coaches and minibuses coming into Swansea on busy nights.
“This is the first year we did that and it was very effective”, he said.
“It’s about how we police. It’s how officers engage with people. We are not saying ‘don’t come into Swansea’ but ‘have a safe night out’.
“Officers are briefed to chat to people – they are there to educate but also to enforce the law where necessary.”
In addition to the CCTV and triage centres already in place on busy nights of the week, such as Wednesdays and Saturdays, Supt Davies said a closer inspection of licensing applications and a crack-down on drinks promotions could be on the horizon.
“Moving ahead there are things like a potential saturation policy where new applications are looked at, and anyone who does not conform to regulations is stopped from operating,” he said.
“We are also trying to prevent what I would call ridiculous drink promotions where drinks are almost being given away and promoting an anti-social drinking habit.
“They are not profit-making for premises, it’s just about getting people in. I think it’s unfortunate that some licensed premises feel they have to go down that route. Responsible premises don’t need to do that.”
Supt Davies added: “The majority are managed responsibly but if they are not we will look to revoke licences.”
The Superintendent heaped praise on the council. “The council has been very supportive of the police,” he said. “We want to promote Wind Street in a positive way.”
Swansea Council will soon be putting out to consultation a policy which could in the future restrict the granting of more licensed premises in some city centre areas, including Wind Street and The Kingsway.
The consultation, approved in November 2012, will see the council consider evidence provided by South Wales Police and the Environment Department, and determine whether it is appropriate to consider the adoption of such a policy.
Chris Lloyd, assistant manager at Ask Italian in Wind Street, said he would welcome the move. “It would stop all this drinking,” he said. “But you’re never going to stop it all because they have got commercial interests. The bigger the brand the bigger the fight will be to keep it.
“But 10 years ago there wasn’t even a place to go to drink on Wind Street. Who’s to say in another five years it can’t go away?”
Mr Lloyd said he would also like to see different types of businesses invest in Wind Street: “It could break it down,” he said.
“It’s pretty much getting like when you go to Ibiza and you have the one strip of bars. A few years ago everyone use to go to a few bars here and then go elsewhere.”
Mr Lloyd said heavy drinking in Wind Street is a source of frustration for the restaurant. “On one Friday or Saturday night in December we couldn’t use the front door because people were being sick outside and fighting,” he said.
“Every other Friday or Saturday you get someone coming in here drunk trying to use the toilet and the bouncers from the bars have to come in and sort it.
“People won’t come in at night or with kids because we’re right in the middle of Wind Street. We often come in in the mornings to find kebabs and chips stuck to the window, and sick outside.”
Supt Davies said: “Wind Street is one of the most concentrated licensed premises area in the country. That’s one of the issues being looking at, and what other businesses are there outside from licensed premises.
“The licensing capacity within that relatively small area is 20,000. You regularly get up to 15,000 people in a small area. Because of that you get anti-social behaviour.
“The number of licensed premises in Wind Street looking back 15 years ago, there were only a few there, and now there are more. That has resulted in it becoming much busier for crime and anti-social behaviour.”
Supt Davies added: “We are keen to encourage investment in the area but the right kind of investment. You want businesses that will add to the area.
“I hope the businesses that have come more recently will be successful and have had a successful Christmas.”
A spokesperson for the Safer Swansea Partnership – made up of bodies including Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, City and County of Swansea and South Wales Police – said: “The responsibility for safe and sensible drinking lies with both people themselves and licensees, but we do a lot of work to help make the city centre night-time experience as safe as possible.
“Swansea, like all city centres across the UK, was very busy over the Christmas holidays. This is why we took a range of extra measures, including enhanced CCTV coverage, a dedicated triage centre, a controlled drop-off point for visitors and a scheme to ban trouble-makers from all the city centre’s licensed premises.
“We’ll continue to work with our partners to provide a safe environment all-year-round for visitors to Swansea city centre at night.”
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