Police take action as number of drink spiking incidents in Kent trebles

  • Part one: ITV News Meridian's Joe Coshan joins police on patrol after a rise in drink spiking

The number of drink spiking incidents reported to Kent Police has trebled.

Data given exclusively to ITV News Meridian reveals there were 38 reports between 1st September to 26th October this year, compared to just 12 in the same period in 2019.

These figures do not include another five reports to Kent Police over the Halloween weekend.

As a result, the force now has dedicated officers looking to safeguard vulnerable people on a night out.

As part of the new operation called 'Safer Autumn', officers work with venues, hotels and railway station staff to spot and deter anyone acting suspiciously.

The training appears to be working, while ITV News Meridian followed one of police’s night patrols, Sergeant Ross Haybourne received a call on the radio about a reported drink-spiking in Chatham.

Within 5 minutes, officers arrested a 28-year-old man from Suffolk on suspicion of the offence. He has since been released from custody, pending further enquiries.

He said: “We’ve safeguarded the female and taken her to hospital and now we need to gather evidence quickly. Whether it’s a blood sample or a urine sample, the type of drugs that are used pass through the body fairly quickly so we only have around two hours depending on what the drug is.”

The new operation hopes to safeguard people out at night Credit: ITV News Meridian

Several other interventions were made during the patrol, when officers noticed a driver circling the area multiple times.

There was nothing to suggest any offences were being committed, but it was enough to justify an interaction with the police.

PC Lyndsey Rance, Kent Police said: "He's an Uber driver, he's been in and out of the area without a fare for quite a long time. I don't think he'll come back now."

Another person was thrown out of a bar for apparently running his finger around the top of a girl's drink, which is not a criminal offence in itself, but more than enough to make someone feel violated and uncomfortable.

He was later allegedly harassing women outside the railway station. He was arrested by officers on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly and later fined.

Credit: ITV News

Sgt Haybourne, added: "The doorman brought a chap out who had been approaching women, trying to get into their circles, trying to find out what they're doing and he was by himself.

"The bar staff thought he might be trying to put something into a drink.

"He doesn't have anything on him that would do that and I think his behaviour is probably cocaine-fuelled.

"He hasn't got any on him at the moment so there's no offence to arrest him for, he's just acting in a really odd, potentially opportunistic way.

"With him, I think we'll be paying him a visit next week to explain how odd his behaviour was, to see if there is a bit of education to do there and just to remind him that if we see him out again he will be getting stopped and spoken with."

  • Part two: ITV News Meridian's Joe Coshan speaks to a woman who was spiked

When out with friends in Rochester, Olivia Calvert had only two drinks before the rest of the night became a complete blur.

She said: "I remember feeling really hot and uncomfortable and then after that, I just remember it going completely black.

"I couldn’t tell you where I was, who I was with and people had to fill me in the next day and that’s when I got kicked out by the club. They said to my friend ‘put her outside, she’s ill'."

The 19-year-old is one of more than 40 suspected victims of spiking in the South East over the last two months.

It follows a recent campaign encouraging people to boycott pubs and clubs across the country to highlight women's safety fears and to raise awareness of the dangers from all forms of spiking.

Olivia’s mum Hannah believes that figure could be higher because some are too afraid to report it, in case the venue staff believe they’re just drunk and the police won’t be able to catch the person responsible.

She said: “Some of the symptoms are very similar to just being drunk, so people second guess themselves and by the clubs saying ‘oh you’re just drunk’ is reinforcing that doubt and that’s what really needs to change.”

Officers have trained more than 100 staff in Rochester’s night time economy, including from Casino Rooms, to look out for anyone acting suspiciously and to help to safeguard vulnerable people on a night out as part of their Operation Safer Autumn.

A spokesperson for Casino Rooms told us: “We take any allegation of drink spiking very seriously and urge anyone who sees suspicious behaviour, or suspects they have been affected by this, to seek assistance immediately from a member of our staff or security team. Our trained staff are here to help and have the support of our onsite First Aider. 

"Awareness messages are promoted within the venue and online. The venue also has drink protectors available free to customers on all bars, both of which it has done for many years." 

But victims of spiking have raised concerns the patrols do not currently run every weekend.

Chief Superintendent Samantha Price of Kent Police said: “It’s my job to put my resources where the threat, harm and risk sits. We knew it was going to be a busy Halloween weekend, like it will be for Christmas."

As much as police watching on potential perpetrators is helping, Olivia and many others say it doesn’t mean they can stop watching their drinks.