Bridport image changes for the better

MANY will agree that watching the behaviour of drunk people while you are completely sober can be an interesting and entertaining experience.

When you are watching drunks from the front seat of a police car during a five-hour ride-along, however, you gain perspective of just how frustrating it must be having to deal with these types day in, day out.

The opportunity to see what police get up to on New Year’s Eve has intrigued and excited me for a long time.

In reality, though, it was pretty boring.

And that’s the way they like it.

Months of planning goes into ensuring New Year’s Eve celebrations do not get out of hand across Tasmania.

 According to Inspector Darren Hopkins, not only do police start their shift with a game plan in mind, but businesses also consider how they can minimise incidents at their premises in the weeks leading up to the big night,.

However, not so long ago, it was not that calculated and places such as Bridport became a cesspool of sex, violence, crime and chaos.

The arrest of 14 youths on New Year’s Eve 2011 after a night of alcohol-fuelled madness made national headlines.

The evening saw several people nearly hit by an out-of-control P-plate driver and a number of fights.

On New Year’s Eve 2012, weapons were seized and fights again required police intervention.

As a journalist hungry for excitement, a part of me hoped that’s what Bridport would deliver on Thursday night.

Instead, the peak of my entertainment was Inspector Hopkins telling nervous teenagers to tip out their opened bottles of alcohol on the street.

Senior Sergeant Mike Gillies – one of 13 officers on the beat in Bridport on New Year’s Eve – said it best: ‘‘Ninety-five per cent of police work is pretty boring.’’

And while that percentage doesn’t mean good odds for a journalist during a ride-along, it highlights the number of small jobs police must do to ensure Tasmania remains a safe spot to live and visit.

Looking out the window at the drunkards on Bridport’s waterfront – most of them teenagers – I hoped that’s not what I look like if I am intoxicated.

Most people on the street were friendly enough, extending their hands for high fives as we drove past.

Others stopped us to unsuccessfully inquire about a lift home.

A small minority did not handle their alcohol quite as well, however.

Before I arrived, Inspector Hopkins had a word with a young man who had stuck his middle finger up in the direction of his patrol car.

Another tough customer asked me what I was looking at when Senior Sergeant Gillies told him to stop walking in the middle of the road.

An intimate rendezvous between two teenagers on Bridport Beach was also interrupted by the beam of an officer’s flashlight.

On a positive note though, two middle-aged women offered to flash me and one officer was propositioned by a woman sitting in the bushes.

We both politely declined.

While those incidents were not the chaos I had envisioned for my ride-along, what occurred spoke volumes about Bridport’s turnaround over the years, and the ongoing effort made by police to keep revellers safe into the wee hours of New Year’s Day.

Bridport Constable Jonathan Wadley on duty at Bridport Caravan Park on New Year’s Eve.

Bridport Constable Jonathan Wadley on duty at Bridport Caravan Park on New Year’s Eve.

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