In the latest in a series of features about a Kirklees campaign to tackle booze-fuelled crime among 16 to 24-year-olds, ANDREW HIRST looks at the role taxi marshals are playing.
HUDDERSFIELD'S first ever taxi marshals have started work.
The six people are part of a wider project to make Huddersfield town centre a safer place to be in at night.
They are part of the Kirklees Bar Code campaign which aims to cut booze-fuelled violence among the 16 to 24 age group in the run-up to Christmas.
The marshals are people who live in Kirklees and have been employed by Warrington-based security company Uniqwin.
Operations manager Alec Johns said the marshals work in two teams of three at Zetland Street and Cross Church Street from 10.30pm to about 1.30am and then down at the Visage and Ethos nightclub complex from the early hours to 4.30am on Fridays and Saturdays.
He said: "They have been very well-received. People on nights out were startled to see them, but also relieved.
"They stop queue-jumpers and issue tickets so people know they can queue in line for a taxi."
Taxi drivers now keep their car doors locked until the marshals guide the customers to the taxi.
Anyone who is drunk or abusive is not given a ticket for a taxi and so cannot get one from these ranks.
Mr Johns added: "The marshals wear high-visibility vests so are really easy to spot. They are there to sort the queues out and to make things easier for both the customers and the taxi drivers."
The marshals are on an initial three-month trial.
Kirklees Council, the police and the taxi trade are all raising awareness of the valuable service taxi drivers provide, encouraging passengers to respect and value the work they do.
Leaflets and posters are being distributed in pubs and clubs warning people that violent and racist behaviour will not be tolerated.
Clr David Sheard, chairman of the council's Licensing Committee, said: "As with all aspects of unruly and anti-social behaviour, it is a very small minority of people who cause the problem, often ending up spoiling a good night out by resorting to unacceptable and threatening behaviour against people simply doing their job and helping people get home safely.
"Safety measures for taxi drivers have developed considerably in recent years, but at the end of the day they are lone workers in a potentially vulnerable position, particularly late at night.
"The taxi trade in Kirklees provides an excellent service which is often taken for granted."
Clr Khizar Iqbal, chairman of Kirklees Safer Communities Partnership, said: "Taxi marshals are skilled in crowd control and dealing with confrontation.
"They will be on hand to meet and greet people wanting a cab and to nip potential crime and disorder problems in the bud before they can escalate, making our town centre safer for all to enjoy."
* Hard-hitting images from the campaign will be projected onto the side of the Kingsgate shopping centre on Friday, December 15, and the last weekend before Christmas.