‘Without the students, Durham city would die’: When we met ‘AlcoholHarmCop’ Mick Urwin

He’s alright

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After last week’s panel discussion on student drinking, we button-holed the Durham Police Sergeant best known for his tweets under the Twitter handle @AlcoholHarmCop.

The Twitter account, Mick Urwin’s personal feed, has proved an interesting source of information about the perspectives of a police officer.

Mick explained his motivation for tweeting, both in a personal capacity and as part of the police unit’s feed.

He said: “My personal Twitter feed was just out of my interest.

“We have a unit Twitter feed as well which I often retweet from. It was about getting messages out and getting different views out.

“What you’ll find from my Twitter feed is that I tweet views which are conflicting but likely to provoke the kind of debate we’ve had today, in order to provoke discussion and get the discussion flowing around different areas.”

One particular tweet from Mick Urwin’s Twitter account, regarding the contentious issue of female urination, was discussed.

Mick Urwin was asked whether he felt that a focus on the person’s gender was fair: “I wouldn’t want to come across as sexist. No, what I try to highlight is what we are having to face on a regular basis.”

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“Generally a male urinating in the street is probably not unusual but a female in the street urinating is unusual, trying to highlight the unusual and it isn’t just a male thing.”

Mick reiterated instances of male and female urination would be dealt with in the same manner.

So does Mick think his Twitter feed is successful at creating lively discussion on the issues surrounding alcohol?

“I hope so. What I’m asking people to do is just to question what’s going on and get out different people’s opinions because me and the unit I work in within the force don’t have all the answers.

“When we get things back from people saying you might want to do this or you might want to do that we look at it. We’re not the be-all for ideas.”

The Tab Durham's Emma Yeo and Charles White with Mick Urwin

The Tab’s Emma Yeo and Charles White with Mick Urwin

One of the key issues at the panel discussion on Wednesday afternoon was whether there is a town and gown divide on drinking.

Mick said: “I don’t think there’s a difference between the levels people are drinking. It was discussed by the panel earlier how the drinking pattern might be different and that is the biggest issue for me.

“When I’m out on any night of the week really you see the locals are out very early on. We see a wave of students from half past eleven onwards, especially on a Wednesday night, coming into the city.

“The students don’t really come into the city until about half past eleven, at which point the locals are just about finished their night out and gone home.

“So I think there is a huge issue with the preloading factor as far as I’m concerned. The condition I see the students come into the city in is concerning to start with. We are seeing more and more  bouncers refusing students entry at half past eleven at night…

“The patterns of drinking are different, the levels of drinking and the drunkenness is exactly the same.”

Kitchen full of empty bottles

Attention was drawn to the need for sensible patterns of drinking

Mick said the most interesting stories regarding being part of the Durham alcohol harm reduction effort are “probably the ones I can’t share. You see weird and wonderful things when people are drunk.”

He also reminded how while the events are mostly humorous, this is not always the case: “The problem with being a police officer is I tend to deal with the ones which aren’t humourous.

“I deal with the ones who walk in front of cars and get wiped out. I’m the one dealing with people in the river etc.

“Yes there are funny stories about drunks but the ones we need to address as a partnership are the ones which are causing the most harm. That’s where my position comes from on it, we need to look at the ones that are harmful.

“It’s only the minority of students which are the issue but unfortunately the minority are receiving the most amount of harm. They are the ones who are getting injured, that are unfortunately receiving fatal injury so that is where I’m coming from.”

The message Mick would like to share with the student body is a simple one, reflecting the overall tone of Wednesday’s discussion.

“As far as the student body are concerned – what I’d say is enjoy Durham. Go out on a night and have a good drink – that’s what it’s there for. That’s what I would want you to do. Without the students Durham City would die, it’s as simple as that.

“What we are after is for the students to have some sort of responsibility around how much they are actually drinking and not get in the state where you can’t walk, you can’t stand up.

“Have that camaraderie between everyone, if a friend is drunk you make sure they get home properly or you’re not left on your own. That’s the message to put across.”