Fights, booze and volleyball - one night on the beat in Scarborough

St Nicholas Street, where police patrol over boozed-up revellers. Picture by Andrew Higgins  124140j  11/10/12
St Nicholas Street, where police patrol over boozed-up revellers. Picture by Andrew Higgins 124140j 11/10/12

At around 7.30pm on a grey Scarborough Saturday night, PCs Rebecca Lalor and Rob Wilcockson pull out of the garage for the start of a shift.

The next eight hours promise to be lively: a sell-out Open Air Theatre show, boozed-up boxing fans at The Spa, both on top of the weekly hordes of town centre revellers.

Police feature - 27.07.13 - IJ

Police feature - 27.07.13 - IJ

First of all, the duo check on The Spa, which is packed with lobster-tanned men – none of whom seem thrilled by the presence of the police.

Police liaise with door staff – a tactic now regularly utilised by the force – to get a flavour of what to expect. PC Wilcockson discovers that a boxing afterparty is taking place later in the evening at the casino – news that isn’t music to his ears.

The officers then head back along Foreshore Road for the early evening seafront patrols, and the rest of the early evening brings with it an eclectic mixture of calls.

A dramatic argument at the railway station is followed by reports of a nuisance cross street game of volleyball. Although no evidence of the match is found, the police do locate a Spanish man who is “very much in drink”. He’s sent home, as PC Wilcockson sets the tone for what to expect later that night.

“Happy drunks like that we could deal with all night.

“It’s in three hours time, when they go from happy to something totally different.”

It’s not long before we are called out to the night’s first serious booze-related incident.

A middle-aged woman, known to the police, has collapsed face down outside The Lord Rosebery, although it emerges quickly that she hasn’t been inside.

Despite apparently having a bottle of vodka in her possession, she claims she’s been “spiked”, and three police are needed to steady her.

While an ambulance is called, a group of cocksure youths yell “I smell bacon” at the police as they exit the pub.

An officer moves them along, but no action is taken.

Asked why they haven’t been nicked, he simply says: “If we locked up everybody who did it, the cells would be full in an hour.”

With just six ambulances working in the borough and Ryedale, an hour has passed and there’s still no sign of help.

The fireworks from Status Quo go off, but the scenes on this dim corner of Westborough are anything but glitzy.

With no sign of an ambulance, a decision is eventually made to take the woman to hospital in the police van.

The intoxicated woman stumbles into the cage, as a group of bemused foreign students look on in. One elderly woman calls the whole episode “a waste of police time”.

After exhibiting the patience of saints, PC Wilcockson and PC Lalor drop the lady off at the hospital, allowing them to return to the town centre, where the duo take up residence in St Nicholas Street.

Cars whizz down the road, narrowly missing revellers. PC Lalor says she’s “stunned” more people are not injured, and recounts a story of a man who was hit, knocking off his shoes, which subsequently knocked out the teeth off a passer-by.

The duo form a guard opposite Blue Lounge, with the idea of their presence on the street deterring any would-be trouble makers.

“It helps,” says PC Lalor. “But if people are going to fight, then they are going to fight.”

Not long after that, a fight does break out opposite Quids Inn. Seconds after arriving on the scene, a man is instantly bundled into the back of our van, after he allegedly punched another male.

Chaos is breaking out in this corner of Scarborough, hulking men are dragged apart as young women in huge heels shriek foul language at the police.

Officers, outnumbered, manage to pull the groups apart and question them in manageable groups of two or three per officer.

One girl continues to hurl abuse at the police, seemingly a four-letter word away from the cells, but she leaves the scene.

The violence is brief, but it takes a brave person to step into the middle of it.

Neither officer says that they’ve ever been assaulted on duty, but asked if she ever stops and thinks about the danger she’s putting herself in, PC Lalor says: “You think about it afterwards and go ‘that was a dangerous situation’ – but you just do it, it’s instinct.”

Asked though why the foul mouthed girl wasn’t arrested, PC Wilcockson adds: “If they weren’t drunk they wouldn’t say this stuff to us.

“It’s ten-a-penny on a Saturday night, you have to show a bit of discretion, but when it’s aimed at other people, it becomes a different situation.”

With the shift nearing its end, the last remaining stragglers begin to stagger home, as the rain thunders down.

The officers joke that as the night goes on, they usually get bombarded with silly questions, or asked if they can borrow their hat for a picture.

But there’s alos a reminder of why the police are there every Saturday night.

“Ultimately we are here to protect people,” said PC Lalor.

“There can be someone that needs you and at the end of the day - that’s why we do it.”