Freshers Week outing for Plymouth police and council staff
FOUR private hire drivers have been caught breaking the rules during an operation to make sure that university students are kept safe during Freshers' Week.
The arrival of first-year university students sees a jump in the number of young people out late and buying alcohol.
In a joint operation Plymouth City Council's public protection service, police and Devon and Somerset Fire Rescue Service checked out how staff and owners managed more than 100 premises.
The public protection service also carried out "plying for hire" test purchases to see whether any licensed private hire drivers were tempted illegally to take passengers who had not booked their journey.
Only hackney carriage (taxis) drivers can pick up a fare without being pre-booked.
Four out of 21 drivers checked were prepared to do this and are being investigated.
The operation was part of a "week of action" hosted by the Violent Crime and Alcohol Harm Reduction Group and Association of Chief Police Officers.
It was a chance to see how well businesses deal with underage customers try to get alcohol.
It also looked minors in premises, drunk and disorderly behaviour, fire safety issues and compliance with licensing conditions, such as for nuisance and noise.
Cllr Brian Vincent, the council's Cabinet Member for the environment, said: "We want people – particularly students who will be part of this city for a number of years – to have a great safe night out.
"Apart from one or two disappointments, the operation showed that the licensed trade is taking its responsibilities to its customers and the city as a whole seriously.
"We would like to remind people to think about how they get home. All licensed operators advertise and in some pubs and clubs freephones are provided.
"Passengers, particularly young women, should not get into any private hire vehicle for a pre-booked journey unless the driver can tell you your name and destination.
"Only hackney carriages can ply for hire and pick up passengers without a booking. If in doubt, check the licensed plate attached to the rear of the vehicle and drivers badge."
Police and the council will continue to work closely with the licensing trade to offer help and assistance.
One such scheme called No Proof Of Age – No Sale offers a training toolkit to help premises which sell age-restricted products keep within the law by offering practical help and guidance.
For more information and other guidance on underage sales, call the Public Protection Service on 01752 304141.