An alarming increase in violent disorder is affecting nighttime safety in the city centre, a new report has revealed.
Fears have been raised that police and nightclub door staff are struggling to keep order after rising numbers of violent and sexual offences were reported.
Leeds City Council’s licensing committee heard that public order offences were up 23 per cent compared to the average before the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Offences of violence without injury were up 22 per cent, according to the council’s Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA), an annual review which helps set city licensing policies.
The biggest increases were for rape, up 52 per cent, and other sexual offences, which increased by 37 per cent, although improved procedures for reporting those offences may have boosted the figures.
Reports of violence with injury were up four per cent from pre-Covid levels.
While there had been an overall decrease in crime in the city centre, crimes associated with the nighttime economy were increasing.
The CIA said: “The council and partner organisations including the police have prioritised encouraging the reporting of sexual crime as part of wider work undertaken relating to gender-based violence which could explain the increase in sexual crime and rape reporting.”
At a meeting of the licensing committee, Coun Andy Hutchison, of Morley Borough Independents, said he found the sexual offence figures alarming.
He said: “If there is more reporting, that means it was there before and not reported.”
Councillors were told the authority was working with the police and other organisations to create safer spaces for women in the city.
Green Party councillor Ed Carlisle said some people were moving out of his Hunslet and Riverside ward because of city centre crime. He said: “They find it really hard. Almost every weekend they come out of their flat and there is blood on the pavement and police tape.”
Principal licensing officer Susan Duckworth told the committee that post-Covid safety was affected by bar and club workers leaving the industry and being replaced by less experienced staff.
She said: “I think that’s one reason we’ve seen such big increases. I would like to think that in future years we’ll start to see that dropping down again.
“We really hoped that Covid would mark a reset. I’m afraid that hasn’t happened.
“I think what we can’t afford is to have many more premises of that type, the club type. High-volume, high-capacity drinking establishments.”
The report said Briggate and Albion Street continued to see the most daytime and nighttime crime.
Police were regularly called out to the Call Lane and Lower Briggate area, and Woodhouse Lane, which have been classed as “red zones”. Pavement widening and nighttime road closures were used to ease overcrowding near the Corn Exchange.
But the report said: “Despite this, the sheer numbers of people, often intoxicated, in the street during these hours highlights the need for the overall capacity of licensed venues in the red area to decrease, not increase.”
City centre offences of theft from person, bicycle theft and other theft all rose slightly but were below the pre-Covid average.
Overall crime levels in the city fell dramatically between February and April 2020, then reached a small peak in October that year before falling again between November 2020 and the following March.
The report said: “This clearly shows the impact of the lockdowns on crime in the entire city. Since then, crime which had dropped dramatically during the Covid period, has increased back to pre-Covid average levels.”