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Police say a decision to ban mankinis and other “inappropriate clothing” from Newquay has helped significantly reduce anti-social behaviour and recorded crime.
Officers in Newquay say the Cornish resort is shedding its reputation as a haven for drunken revellers and stag parties as a result of the zero-tolerance approach to risque fancy dress.
Some visitors to Newquay, including children as young as 15, have been sent home as a result of anti-social behaviour, while older tourists have had skimpy costumes seized by police – including mankinis, a thong-like male bathing costume popularised by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s spoof documentary character Borat.
In an interview marking the end of a successful summer season, Devon and Cornwall Police Superintendent Julie Whitmarsh said the town had come a long way in the last three years, thanks to concerted efforts to help clean up the town’s reputation.
“We have had this consistency of seizing inappropriate items of clothing, sending people home to get changed, and that has worked, it has made a real difference, this ‘no-nonsense attitude’,” said the 47-year-old.
“Mankini is what we term ‘offensive clothing’, so we won’t accept people wearing them. They are just hideous.
“Is it just me, but if you were living in Bath for example, or Bournemouth, is that something you would wear to walk into town on a Saturday afternoon? No.
“They are just revolting, there is nothing pleasant about seeing anybody in a mankini. We have had a real crackdown on the fake penises.
“And people are getting that message. You look at the images you see of Newquay now, 2009 is three years ago and we are in a very different place.”
The tough stance has been part of the award-winning Newquay Safe campaign, which was launched in the summer of 2009 following the deaths of two teenagers who died following separate, drink-fuelled nights out in the town.
Residents – many of whom were angry at Newquay’s apparent descent from a family-friendly holiday destination in the 1970s to its image as a modern-day Mecca for drinkers – marched on the council buildings in an impassioned plea to “take our town back” from the clutches of anti-social tourists.
“There was a lot of anger, that for us was a real turning point and threw it into sharp focus,” said Supt Whitmarsh.
“It was just the constancy of what was happening, the ongoing situation. I’ve always been shocked at the number of families that come on holiday but don’t all go home as a family. To have that number of incidents was a shock for all of those involved. It was a real catalyst for change.”
Newquay Safe drew praise from Home Office ministers for its involvement of residents, businesses and local authorities, and gave birth to a number of initiatives designed to cut crime.
Police regularly called parents across Britain to collect their drunken children in the middle of the night, seizing alcohol and, in some cases, banning stag and hen parties from going into the resort.
“I remember one of our PCSOs said a 16-year-old boy had 64 cans of super-strength lager at 2pm,” said Supt Whitmarsh. “But the mother had a real go at the police saying they had ruined the boy’s fun.
“But it isn’t fun if you see the immediate harm a can of super-strength lager can cause a 16-year-old, let alone 64 between five of them. There is an attitude of ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’, that that’s ok, but it is not.”
And Supt Whitmarsh, the mother of boys aged 14 and 11, said some parents’ attitudes have contributed to the problems associated with anti-social behaviour among drunken teenagers.
“You get adults dropping their children off with, literally, a boot full of alcohol, and they say: ‘I’d rather know what they are drinking’,” she said.
“Wait – you think they are going to spread that out over the course of a week? It will be gone in the first 36 hours. It is that whole change in culture with parents that I think has been one of the issues.”
Supt Whitmarsh said some parents have contacted police on the assumption that “we are providing a baby-sitting service”, while others have asked for advice on whether their child is staying in a “decent” area of town.
But officers say the message is finally getting through to many. Reported crime during the summer season fell by one-fifth this year compared with 2009, while reports of anti-social behaviour dropped from 685 in the summer of 2009 to 286 this season.
This was partly attributed to additional police officers to work nights in Newquay this summer, as well as long-term schemes bearing fruit.
“Crime is considerably down and the town is on the cusp of real change,” said Supt Whitmarsh. “You hope that message is getting through.
“It was a very difficult place in 2009. I can understand the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour that the residents had, that is why we have worked very closely with them.
“I think the challenges are to maintain that work and focus to take it forward. We all have a sense of pride in Newquay and the town it wants to become. We won’t shy away from dealing with what needs to be dealt with.”