County crackdown over 'needle spiking' in nightclubs

Bars and clubs are launching a security crackdown following reports of “needle spiking” of clubbers in other parts of the country.

James Hitchin, chair of Shrewsbury Pubwatch, which will lead the crackdown in the town
James Hitchin, chair of Shrewsbury Pubwatch, which will lead the crackdown in the town

A number of women have told of "terrifying" experiences after suspected incidents of being jabbed and injected with date rape drugs in busy bars on nights out.

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Government to make searching guests a legal requirement, and the matter is now due to be discussed in parliament.

Action is now being taken in Shropshire to try and get in front of the problem.

In Shrewsbury, a town which has "purple flag" status in recognition of its safety for a night out, a taskforce led by Shrewsbury Pubwatch has been formed to deter criminal spiking. Representatives from the police, councils, university, colleges and venues all invited to participate.

James Hitchin, chair of Shrewsbury Pubwatch, said: “As venues we do everything possible to keep people safe which is why we’re proactively forming this group to prevent spiking from becoming an issue in the town.

“We want to reassure people who are out enjoying Shrewsbury nightlife that we know this has been a problem in other areas so we are taking swift proactive action now to ensure Shrewsbury remains as safe as possible.

“A night out in Shrewsbury is still very enjoyable and safe, but we are always vigilant against any emerging issues like this and will take proactive, preventative action.

“A special taskforce has been formed so we can fully discuss the situation and work together to ensure people continue to have confidence in coming into Shrewsbury for a pleasant night out.

“We can assure everyone that there will be a zero-tolerance attitude across all venues in Shrewsbury, and security staff will be paying extra attention to keep Shrewsbury as safe as possible.”

In Telford, Pussycats nightclub has been sharing advice to customers on how to stay safe, as well as keeping staff and security colleagues informed of what to watch out for.

"I'm not aware of any cases in Telford," said boss Ben McGraw. "We've put an advert out on what to look out for. We have one of the strictest doors in Shropshire. We get people to empty their pockets before they come in. It's like going through airport security. We want to keep people safe."

West Mercia Police offered advice to people who think they may have been spiked.

Detective Superintendent Damian Pettit, head of vulnerability and safeguarding, said: "We continue to run perpetrator-focused operations, working with door staff, venues and street wardens to identify suspicious behaviour and prevent a wide range of offences.

"Please visit Drink Aware for advice and information on the symptoms of drink spiking and what to do if you think someone has been spiked.

"We encourage anyone who feels they may have been a victim of spiking or has any concerns about an incident to get in touch. All reports will be investigated."

West Mercia police and crime commissioner John Campion said: "Unfortunately this crime is yet another concern for women and girls, we must do better to ensure they not only are safe but feel safe. I believe there needs to be a robust societal change to ensure this behaviour is clearly unacceptable. As commissioner I expect West Mercia Police to play their part in working with communities, licensed premises and partners to tackle this worrying trend.”

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