Just 40 police try to cope with 75,000 revellers

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The Independent Online

Less than a decade was needed to develop a single canal-side bar, catering for mostly homosexual men, into the area with the most vibrant nightlife in the north ofEngland.

Less than a decade was needed to develop a single canal-side bar, catering for mostly homosexual men, into the area with the most vibrant nightlife in the north ofEngland.

But the success story of Manchester's Gay Village has been achieved at a price.

In acting as the catalyst for the city's development into one of the most healthy late-night economies in Europe, the area has been transformed. Breweries have been drawn to Canal Street to open a string of nationally known themed venues, including Slug and Lettuce and Quo Vadis, alongside independents such as Velvet and Manto.

Now every Friday and Saturday night, 75,000 people flood into Manchester city centre - up from 30,000 in the early Nineties - with large groups of straight men and women hopping from bar to bar through the village. But as well as changing the atmosphere of the district, the arrival of such huge numbers of drinkers has brought a host of public order problems.

Manchester's last two crime and disorder audits have identified the Gay Village area as the key hotspot for assaults.

Phil Hadfield, a University of Durham researcher who has studied the Gay Village, said: "There are just so many people in so many venues.

"Police resources are being outstripped and the consequences can be quite serious."

The success of the Gay Village has created huge opportunities in private security and the number of registered door staff in Manchester has risen from 1,000 in 1995 to 3,200 last year.

Sources said Greater Manchester Police had 40 officers on street duty in the city centre on a weekend, plus another 15 in vehicles. A force spokesman would not give figures but said "adequate" resources were available. A CCTV system covers 54 licensed premises in the city centre while a new two-way radio system will link security staff at all licensed premises and the police. Gordon McKinnon, the council's city centre manager, admitted police resources were being stretched but said: "I would not want to give the impression that it is the Wild West."

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