Urinating and vomiting in public places, having sex in the historic cathedral grounds, drunken fights in the street – all this and more came under the national TV spotlight in the first Caught on Camera TV show. For six weeks, the Channel 5 series is highlighting the dark side of Chester night life – but also the heroic efforts of Cheshire Constabulary to keep it under control. In this special report, RACHEL FLINT talks to the police, the cathedral’s own special constable and Cheshire West and Chester Council about issues raised during the series
Booze-fueled fights, projectile vomiting and revellers lying comatose in the streets – not exactly the ideal advert for any city.
But that’s how thousands of people all over the country saw our historic city on Friday (October 18) after cameramen filmed hours of drink-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour for a national television series during a heaving race day in July this year.
More than 929,000 viewers tuned in to watch the first episode of Caught on Camera , which showed the city filled with drunken tottering women, men urinating on historic monuments – and even a reveller mooning at passersby as he took a nap in a phone box on Bouverie Street.
And during the hour-long show – which also features CCTV footage from Rotherham and Huntington, Cambridgeshire – police arrested five men on suspicion of assault in a ‘sickening attack’ on a young couple which sees a man stamp on a reveller’s head as he lies defenceless on the floor.
The show – the first in six hour-long programmes featuring Chester’s crime and anti-social behaviour alongside other cities – follows police and council-employed CCTV operators as they monitor the city’s cameras to home in on criminals and try to clamp down on alcohol-fuelled brawls and misbehaviour.
CCTV operator Paul Hunt, who monitors the 182 cameras surveying the city centre, is shown keeping a close eye on a drunk woman as she stumbles home, before calling street pastors when she fell on the corner of Linenhall Place.
But when the Good Samaritans came to her aid she became difficult and aggressive – before projectile vomiting all over them.
Soon after, she is arrested for her own safety.
“My dad said that after the war 200,000 people came to Chester races and there was no trouble,” said Paul, speaking during the programme to presenter Nick Wallis.
“Nowadays it’s 50,000 and there’s loads of trouble.”
Paul, who has worked as a CCTV operator for 12 years, is shown alerting police after spotting two men climbing through a window at The George and Dragon pub.
Remarkable footage shows PC Eddie Quayle single-handedly detain both burglars, spraying them with CS spray then tackling them to the ground.
During the screening of the programme residents and councillors took to social networking site Twitter to praise PC Quayle for his ‘heroism’ and ‘determination’, with many praising the efforts of Chester Inner Neighbourhood Policing Team for keeping the city safe during the races.
Next week’s Caught on Camera shows police tackling shoplifters and fraud in the city’s retail areas.
Police praised the controversial documentary for highlighting the ‘integral’ role of CCTV in helping to fight crime in Chester city centre.
The Channel 5 TV crews spent four months working alongside officers from Chester Inner Neighbourhood Policing Unit, joining them at all hours of the day and night as they patrolled through the city centre.
Sergeant Andy Burrage – seen waking-up a reveller whose bum was exposed as he slumbered in a public phone box during Friday’s episode – said the series highlighted the importance of Chester’s CCTV and its role in fighting crime and gathering evidence.
“I think what this programme does is capture all the bad things we have to deal with in this city, it is that type of programme,” said Sgt Burrage, who explained that crews filmed for dozens of hours to create the hour-long programme.
“If we had an episode showing police officers helping old ladies over the road that wouldn’t be popular.
“CCTV forms an integral part of how we police the city, acting as both a deterrent and investigative tool.
“The Channel 5 programme shows exactly how effective the system is in catching and monitoring offences until the police arrive, and thereby catching vital evidence that’s difficult to contest.”
The first episode of the series shows footage of easily identifiable drunken revellers brawling, urinating and arguing with police in the streets.
But Sgt Burrage said the programme did not have to disguise offenders’ identities unless enquires were still ongoing by police or the courts.
Sgt Burrage, who features heavily in the next five episodes of the crime documentary, said being followed around by film crews while on duty had been ‘weird’ but he soon forgot they were there.
“I know that sometimes CCTV coverage is a contentious issue. However those going about their lawful day to day business need not be concerned. Only those intent on committing crime in the city need to be worried about them,” he added
Cheshire West and Chester Council says TV series sends out warning to anti-social elements
Cheshire West and Chester Council spokesman Ian Callister said: “This was an entirely factual programme intended to demonstrate the success of partnership working between the police and local authority in combating some of the worst results of excessive drinking.
“It certainly did not suggest that Chester is any worse than any other comparable city in the UK on a Saturday night – or that incidents depicted involve anything other than a tiny minority of the population.
“Indeed, the programme featured other cities, and depicted what it a national social problem.
“Seven arrests were made over a Friday and Saturday night when the city was visited by about 27,000 race-goers, let alone those who were in the city centre simply for social purposes.
“If there was damage to the city’s image, then that damage was done only by those whose behaviour warranted the attention of the cameras.
“What the programme did accomplish was to send out a clear warning to those who might be tempted to act badly in the streets of Chester, that their actions could well be captured on film – or result in a court appearance.”