One of the UK’s biggest theatre operators, Trafalgar Entertainment, recently fitted senior staff in its venues with bodycams, revealing the increasing reliance that is being placed on security staff to manage disruptive audience members, as businesses in the cultural sector attempt to tackle a rise in antisocial behaviour.

Ros Morgan

Ros Morgan

It follows an incident in Manchester where police were called following a disturbance during a performance of the musical The Bodyguard.

Incidents like this have prompted a renewed conversation around antisocial behaviour, particularly since the pandemic, with some commentators suggesting that public conduct has declined since then.

It also highlights the increasing need for and importance of additional security in private venues or public spaces in popular leisure districts. In the West End, for instance, members of the security firm called My Local Bobby – in their red high-vis uniforms almost as distinctive as London buses – have been commissioned by Heart of London Business Alliance for some time to provide exactly this sort of additional layer of security.

Firms like My Local Bobby, which formed in 2016 at a time when police resources and budgets were starting to be stretched, have become effective security services providers in the UK. In the West End, extra services are increasingly playing an important part in creating a sustainable, healthy environment that is clean, safe and well managed, laying the foundations for a world-class destination.

This is important because the West End is now seeing footfall increase and international visitors return.

Patrolling the area in and around Leicester Square, there are now six full-time bobbies who work in partnership with the local businesses via radio, the Met and Westminster City Council. They model themselves on a traditional style of policing, with an emphasis on petty crime, successfully controlled through common sense and human understanding.

For all those people coming to central London and residents alike, the bobbies provide a reassuring presence and a friendly face and they have been successful in reducing crime and antisocial behaviour.

At Heart of London, I often receive positive feedback from businesses and property owners in the West End. Managers at retail stores and hotels describe how the deployment of the team in the area has provided an immediate positive impact, and the bobbies are called upon whenever there is a security need or an issue to do with antisocial behaviour.

Not only this, but the firm also has a strong emphasis on delivering a positive social and environmental impact, and, for instance, deal with people who are rough sleeping in a friendly and empathetic manner. They have become known for their total professionalism and have proven highly effective at resolving sometimes difficult and sensitive situations. By having a highly visible presence, they also support women’s safety and those who are vulnerable or need support while out at night.

The level of assurance provided by having this additional security in the centre of London cannot be underestimated. It is a valuable safety net for businesses that know that the response from My Local Bobby is rapid and effective when called upon.

All of this has meant that Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus have been awarded the internationally recognised Purple Flag accreditation for their evening and night-time economy. This is only awarded to areas that provide a vibrant and diverse mix of dining, entertainment and culture while promoting the safety and wellbeing of visitors and local residents.

The level of assurance provided by having this kind of additional security in central London cannot be underestimated. London is thriving again after a difficult few years that saw visitor numbers to the West End fall and businesses having to fight to survive, and extra security can provide a valuable safety net for businesses keen to welcome people back to the best city in the world.

Ros Morgan is chief executive of Heart of London Business Alliance