Armed police and sniffer dogs to make sure St Leger is safe
Armed officers and sniffer dogs will be on duty in Doncaster as police look to make sure the St Leger is safe.
In total, around 60 officers will be on duty each day as officers run a major operation alongside Doncaster Racecourse bosses to keep things safe at the venue, where the St Leger Festival is running from Wednesday to Saturday.
More officers will on duty on the Saturday of the main St Leger race, with police from all over South Yorkshire working at Town Moor during the four day operation.
Supt Paul McCurry, head of operational support at South Yorkshire Police, was brought up in Doncaster and is a fan of the festival, which he and reckons is a major date on the Doncaster calendar.
But he says it represents a big operation for the police to make sure it is safe.
He said: “To me the St Leger is absolutely fabulous. But it’s a large site, with very busy roads around it which add complications to policing it as people arrive and leave.
“We will have a couple of our firearms vehicles there all day to deter any threat against the event, and we will have passive drugs sniffer dogs to deter any people from bringing drugs into the event. They can detect of someone has had contact with drugs.
“The aim is to search 100 per cent of people to deter anyone from trying to bring in weapons or drugs, and there will also be dogs that sniff out explosives.
“The racecourse staff will be searching people, but we will have officers there to support them where they are doing that. If they need assistance with a search, for instance if they think they’ve found something illegal, we will have people with them there to deal with it.
“We pride ourselves in having a drug-free event in Doncaster. This is the third year I’ve been running the operation here.”
Armed officers will be visible outside the entrance to the course and are intended to provide re-assurance, although police stress there have been no threats made against the event.
Officers do not expect to make many arrests and say they have traditionally not had to.
Supt McCurry said any arrests tend to be around drunkeness and sometimes minor assaults, and tended to be towards the end of the day.
Officers will also be supervising a dedicated bus area for people to get back to town after the racing, and there will be designated points for crossing the busy roads, Leger Way and Bawtry Road.
Four motorcycle officers will be controlling traffic near the venue. Mounted police will also be present.
Two years ago, a video of one of the officers policing the event dancing among racegoers to a cover of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines went viral on the internet, taking off his helmet and using it as a dancing prop in front of the cheering crowd.
Supt McCurry said he was happy for his officers to interact with the spectators. He said he was keen for his officers to meet and talk to racegoers at the event, and said people were welcome to take selfies with his officers.
He said: “The key advice from our point of view, is plan your journey, your route and your parking, and if you’re on foot try to cross the road at a designated crossing place. Try and keep the bags you bring to a minimum to make sure the search is as quick as possible.
“Above all, enjoy the racing, enjoy the venue and have a great day.”
The Leger festival starts on Wednesday (September 11). Thursday is ladies day, with former Spice Girl Mel C performing a concert after the racing finishes. Friday is gentlemen's day, with former Kaiser Chiefs singer Ricky Wilson on stage at the end of the day.
The World's oldest Classic, the St Leger Stakes, is run at 3.35pm on Saturday September 14.