GAZETTE reporter Chris Gregory joined police on patrol in Basingstoke, to find out how a new campaign has made a difference to the town centre. But rather than a fast-paced, busy evening full of action, the night was much quieter than he expected.

THERE will be busier nights patrolling the pubs and clubs in Basingstoke for PC Lisa Cronin and PC Lee Bishop.

Maybe it was because of the heavy rain, or Hampshire Constabulary’s new Operation Drink Safe campaign, but when I joined them on a Saturday night, there was little sign of alcohol-related violence.

In fact, the only flashpoint came when a female reveller pinched PC Bishop’s bottom outside Lloyd’s Bar in Festival Place, which led to a telling off.

He said: “Drunk people come up and talk to you and that’s not a problem, especially when it’s a quiet night. Sometimes they do get a bit boisterous and you have to talk to them in a way that spells out what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. But most people are absolutely fine.”

The pair were part of a 20-strong, high-visibility team of officers on duty that night, patrolling Basingstoke town centre as part of Operation Drink Safe.

The campaign, which was launched one month ago, aims to curb anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related violence in the town centre.

It includes a poster campaign warning against excessive drink, extra patrols on Friday and Saturday nights, and a monthly meeting between the police and door staff at the town’s nightspots.

After checking on the bars at the Top of Town, our first stop was at the United Reformed Church in London Street, where a sanctuary has been set up for those who have consumed one too many drinks.

Run by the volunteer Street Pastors the Safe Hub opened in August and is a room in the basement of the church that is equipped with a bed, open from 10pm to 3pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

After directing a lost motorist out of Market Place, we headed to the video control room in Festival Place, where a dedicated team watch a bank of 16 television screens, monitoring more than 70 cameras around the town centre.

We then made our way to the bus station near Liquid nightclub, where officers emptied a man’s beer bottle, before heading back to the police station.

During three hours on the beat, no problems were reported and most revellers seemed in good spirits.

PC Cronin said: “This campaign is about people taking responsibility for themselves, like making sure they have enough money to go home and making sure they are safe.

“Sometimes people get themselves in a vulnerable state and that can attract unwanted attention. It’s all about engaging with people to make sure they know about alcohol awareness.”