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Meet the teams watching out for Aberdeen students this freshers’ week

As students return to the city police have been carrying out additional patrols and working with partner organisations.
As students return to the city police have been carrying out additional patrols and working with partner organisations.

Aberdeen nightlife has sprung back to life as thousands of university and college students make a welcome return to the city.

A night out on the tiles on Saturday night showed the community effort that goes into making sure first time revellers at freshers’ week are kept safe, and helped home safely.

At just after 10pm the city was already buzzing – Belmont Street was bustling with people and groups meandered their way across Union Street.

Laughter could be heard filtering around the streets as people reunited or made new friends, negotiating where to head to next.

Atik was one of the main venues involved with freshers’ week and it remained constantly busy throughout the night.

Queues were beginning to form outside clubs like Atik, Underground and Nox while the smell of closeby takeaways mingled in the air.

Although nightclubs reopened in August last year, this was the first time freshers’ week has been allowed to go ahead in full swing.

As well as revelers, the police were out in force to patrol the city centre and ensure everyone was having a safe time.

Police vans could be seen struggling to maneuver around the crowds in areas like Belmont Street, meanwhile, other officers patrolled on foot.

Officers have heightened their patrols since September 11, and plan to continue additional patrols until next Sunday when freshers’ week will officially finish.

Police working to ‘create a safe environment’

For Inspector George Nixon and Sergeant Kevin Ritchie, the night was quieter than others. However, this didn’t stop them from staying alert when patrolling the city centre.

The officers were constantly assessing the crowds looking out for vulnerable people or any hint of violence and crime and making sure the city was safe.

People enjoying a night out can easily spot the police vans and officers and are able to flag them down quickly if they need any help.

As well as remaining vigilant on the streets, the officers carried radios to respond quickly to any requests or call-outs.

Insp Nixon said: “It’s just about making it a safe environment and recognising there’s a large number of young people new to the city – some of whom have never been out before, some of whom are establishing new friendships.

“It’s making sure we can work with others to create that safe environment and reduce any potential vulnerabilities and mitigate them.”

He explained that they help to make sure new students integrate well into the city, and officers are also there to protect residents and businesses.

Freshers’ is a big event for officers and partner organisations, including both universities, the ambulance service, Street Pastors and Aberdeen Inspired.

Ahead of September, officers met with these partner organisations to prepare for the two-week event and make sure the city remained a safe place for students, residents and venues.

One of the biggest issues highlighted last year was the lack of public transport, and so both Aberdeen University and Robert Gordon decided to hire buses to ferry students to town and safely back home again.

Taxi marshalls returned to the ranks in the last few weeks which meant there is organisation and order in the queues – reducing the need for police intervention at times.

Reducing ambulance call-outs

The ambulance service is trialing a safe triage hub unit on Belmont Street for freshers’ week, meaning they are there at the scene to help anyone who may need it.

Kieran Whitford said: “The crew are here to respond to jobs in the city centre in a fairly close radius to where we are.

“Most of that’s going to be alcohol and drug-related jobs.

“It’s been funded by the Aberdeen Drug and Alcohol Partnership with the hope we can prove it reduces ambulance callouts and emergency department attendance and ultimately reduce harm for the public in Aberdeen.”

The ambulance triage unit was based on Belmont Street so crews could swiftly respond to anyone needing medical attention.

If a 999 call comes in the control room can ask the crew to attend, meanwhile, door staff can ask the team to check someone over if necessary.

“We can do the initial assessment and then decide from there whether we need an emergency ambulance to transport them to hospital. We’ve also got the patient transport ambulance and we can take them up in a non-emergency fashion.

“We can also discharge them if they seem well enough in the end and help them get a taxi home.”

Street Pastors available to ‘everyone and anyone’

Volunteers from the Street Pastors offer support to those enjoying a night out in Aberdeen, from giving people a listening ear to making sure they get home safely.

They work closely with the police throughout the weekend to make sure everyone is enjoying a safe environment.

Steve Skinner and volunteers for Street Pastors were stationed on Union Street to help anyone who might need it.

Steve Skinner, a team leader for Street Pastors said: “We do the same thing every week in terms of it’s just about being available to everyone and anyone.

“On nights when there’s more freshers in town we expect more interactions with younger folk who don’t know the city well, people who might have had a bit more than they’re used to drinking that sort of thing.

“Certainly last year, freshers was fairly busy and this was a very useful resource.”

The teams work to find out which halls students stay in to help them get home to safety.

They also have teams patrolling the streets as well as on board a vehicle based on Union Street, working between 10pm until 4am.

The team works closely with the police to get people home safely.

‘A safe and welcoming experience’

The partnership works towards reducing anti-social behaviour, looking after residents and businesses as well as revelers.

In 2014, Aberdeen was the first city in Scotland to be awarded a Purple Flag in recognition of the management of the city’s night-time economy and the safety and wellbeing of residents and visitors.

Ewan Mclean of Aberdeen Inspired added: “The partnership work towards this year’s student welcome weeks in Aberdeen, led by Police Scotland, is an excellent example of taking a managed approach to the night-time economy to ensure a safe and welcoming experience to new-comers and those returning.

“It is work like this that saw Aberdeen being the first city in Scotland to achieve the Purple Flag accreditation for excellence after dark.”