Friday 21 October 2016

Mankini 'ban' cuts Newquay crime

Published 28/05/2015 | 06:46

People dressed in mankinis walk along the jetty of the Serpentine boat house in London's Hyde Park
People dressed in mankinis walk along the jetty of the Serpentine boat house in London's Hyde Park

A coastal town's decision to "ban" mankinis from public areas has helped reduce anti-social behaviour and resulted in a boom for the local tourist economy, police and community leaders have said.

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Officers in the Cornish town of Newquay said a "robust" attitude to inappropriate behaviour in public has helped shed its "Wild West" image as a haven for stag and hen parties, in favour of a family-friendly destination.

They say a determination to tackle anti-social behaviour such as excess drinking, public disorder and the wearing of inappropriate clothing such as mankinis - skimpy male bikini-style bathing costumes popularised by the comedy character Borat - has helped reduce crime in the town.

It comes as figures show anti-social behaviour and criminal activity in the town has dropped since 2009, when residents marched through Newquay in protest at a perceived lack of action following the deaths of teenagers Paddy Higgins and Andrew Curwell, who fell from cliffs following separate visits to the holiday destination.

Devon and Cornwall Police inspector Dave Meredith, the town's most senior policeman, said: "When you speak to anybody from patrol officers to PCSOs, partners in town, shop keepers, everybody says Newquay has made a miraculous improvement.

"Did Newquay have a problem with its reputation five years ago? Almost certainly it did.

"Five or six years ago and more, Newquay was a little bit of a Wild West town. It had a bad reputation nationally.

"People expected to come to Newquay to drink a lot, behave irresponsibly, a lot of really young people came to Newquay and knew they had a good chance of getting drunk. Certainly we have clamped down on that and the image of Newquay now has certainly curtailed some of that."

The local authority helped form the Newquay Safe partnership in 2009, following the protest marches during the busy summer season from hundreds of local residents and business owners to "take back their town" from the grip of anti-social revellers.

The scheme subsequently won praise from the Home Office, with Cornwall Council's marketing department targeting holidaymakers from outside the county in an effort to rid its reputation of a lax attitude to underage drinking and anti-social behaviour.

Since the protests, reports of anti-social behaviour dropped every year from 937 in 2009/10 to 485 in 2012/13.

Overall crime in Newquay has also reduced significantly - from 1,823 incidents in 2012/13 down to 1,624 in 2014/15.

Mr Meredith said: "We have a really robust approach to alcohol-related disorder. That doesn't start when you arrive at a nightclub in Newquay - it starts at the marketing while they're at home.

"It's not completely the opposite now but the town has successfully evolved into something which has a broader appeal to it. Families seem to be coming here a lot more, we have a surf culture, and we have still got a great night-time economy.

"We welcome and embrace that, but it is far more responsible."

He said at its worst six years ago, officers would be dealing with disorder "right the way through the night".

He said: "It would range from 16 to 18-year-olds mostly at the younger end of the scale, but I wouldn't put all the blame on them. You're going up to 40- and 50-year-olds on stag nights - it was the stag culture of 'do what you like' - it was quite intense.

"Nowadays you can go on foot patrol at night - yes it's busy, yes there's disorder - but it is nothing like it used to be. There's not the volume coming at night, it has over-spilled to the day time with more families coming. The people coming at night don't seem so intent on consuming as much alcohol as they can."

Resident Dave Sleeman, who helped organise the 2009 protests and has since become the town mayor, said the resort is "unrecognisable" now from its previous image.

He said: "I remember back in the 2000s you couldn't walk the streets on a Saturday without seeing someone wearing a mankini or what have you.

"But now they're not allowed in Newquay. The police will tell them to go home and get changed if they see them wearing one, and the guest houses and camp sites are pretty good at warning their guests about what's acceptable.

"I think we have turned the corner here."

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