My job at Bristol City Council is to champion our wonderfully rich night time economy and the exciting and diverse after dark culture our city is famous for.
Our night time economy prides itself on curating magical experiences for audiences. Staff are well trained in safety and audience safeguarding, and as a Purple Flag city, we pride ourselves on creating safe and inclusive night time environments.
I find it heart-breaking to read recent stories about people falling victim to those who harm audiences through drink spiking. This is a national problem, but we something we know is happening in Bristol too.
Drink spiking is an abhorrent crime, carrying a maximum of ten years in prison. It can cause lasting physical and psychological harm to victims, and in some cases even death.
However, it is sadly not a new phenomenon, and we know it is significantly underreported by victims, with depressingly few prosecutions brought to trial.
The recent news stories highlighting young people’s experiences of being spiked serve to demonstrate the widespread frustration at our collective inability to get a handle on this issue.
But change is happening. I’ve been working on tackling drink spiking in our venues since being appointed earlier this year. It was clear to me that what we needed was a city-wide, coordinated approach bringing together the Police, NHS, Bristol City Centre BID, the universities, and night time venues, alongside educating night time audiences on what to do if they experience a drink spiking incident.
Working off the back of the successful Bristol Rules campaign (which was recently nominated for a best night time economy initiative award), that’s exactly what we are doing.
Together, we’ve developed a guide for venues setting out how to respond to a suspected drink spiking, so staff feel confident and take appropriate steps to support their customers. The guide also outlines how venues can support the police in their investigations, and to go alongside the campaign, hundreds of testing kits are being rolled out to bars, pubs and clubs to use when a potential spiking has been reported to them.
Additionally, police will be equipped with urine testing kits to test the person, as well as the drink. This is especially important as the window for gathering evidence is short, with some drugs leaving the person’s system in as little as 12 hours, making early testing critical.
To make sure those enjoying a night out are aware that Bristol is taking drink spiking seriously and will support them if they need it, there are posters going up in venues. This is crucial, as we need to encourage people to report these crimes if we are to stop the people committing them.
Launching ahead of one of the busiest weekends for pubs and clubs, more than 100 venues have already joined the campaign across the city. Posters will be shared inside late night venues and a social media campaign has been designed to raise awareness and direct people to the campaign website for resources and support.
Everyone deserves to have a safe and fun night out. This is just the start of our journey towards effectively tackling drink spiking in our venues. It has gone on too long and Bristol’s night time community are taking action to eradicate this heinous crime. But I feel lucky to live in a city like Bristol where so many people care so deeply about the community. Together we can put an end to spiking in Bristol.