Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 14:31 UK

Police target hip-hop nightclubs

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Fans and MC at hip-hop club
The new Form 696 applies to late-night clubs featuring DJs and MCs

Hip-hop clubs have come under police scrutiny after a rethink of a strategy to prevent violence at music events.

There had been strong objections to the Metropolitan Police's use of Form 696, used to gather details of promoters and performers.

It has now been changed so as not to be "primarily" aimed at live music.

It will in future focus on "large promoted events between 10pm and 4am which feature MCs and DJs performing to recorded backing tracks".

Around 270 venues in London give the Metropolitan Police details of their events by filling out the risk assessment form.

DJs or MCs performing to a recorded backing track
Open between 2200-0400
In a nightclub or large pub
Promoted in advance
Police recommend that events matching these criteria use Form 696

Police say it is necessary to track artists and promoters who have attracted problems, allowing officers to prevent violence by putting extra security in place or shutting down shows.

When the form was introduced, it requested details of the ethnic groups likely to attend and musical styles performed, and was branded "potentially racist" by critics.

The questions about ethnic groups and musical styles have been removed and new criteria added after a "thorough review".

At the end of the day, you've got to say that certain events attract more trouble than others
Metropolitan Police spokeswoman

Police say evidence shows trouble is most likely at music events when DJs or MCs perform to a live backing track at late-night clubs.

"Detailed research identified which events are most likely to attract crime and disorder," a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police told BBC News.

"At the end of the day, you've got to say that certain events attract more trouble than others.

"We're shifting the focus away from live music. Originally the definition of what Form 696 applied to was extremely broad so by narrowing it down, it's thought that we can better tailor it to our requirements."

Reading between the lines, the indie kids are all right but we've got to look out for those black boys with microphones in their hand
Rod Gilmore
Hip-hop promoter

Club promoter Rod Gilmore, who has put on the Doctor's Orders hip-hop night in London for four-and-a-half years, said the new criteria would target urban music.

"Reading between the lines, the indie kids are all right but we've got to look out for those black boys with microphones in their hands," he said. "Saying it's over recorded music with DJs and MCs really narrows it down."

Most promoters, performers and venue owners were responsible, he said, but added that Form 696 was not effective at cracking down on those causing problems.

"I'm keen for the dodgy promoters who get a bad crowd and therefore create this impression of evil urban music to be found out because that's the only way we're going to clean things up. Unless we keep our own house in order, we're all going to get tarred with that brush.

"If Form 696 was effectively closing down parties that had trouble, then I'd be more supportive of it. I'll fill it in when asked to but I don't think it's doing what it set out to."

A statement from the Met said: "To date, shootings linked to licensed premises have been significantly reduced and we believe the risk assessment process has contributed to this."

Police have said the form "played its part" in an 11% drop in serious violence in licensed premises in 2008.

'More focused'

Earlier this year bodies including the House of Commons Culture Select Committee and UK Music - an umbrella group representing much of the British music industry - called for the form to be scrapped.

UK Music said it would continue to push for its abolition.

But the Musicians' Union, which also called for it to be scrapped, has now softened its position.

"When the form was first introduced, it suggested it was for all live music events," said assistant general secretary Horace Trubridge.

"That was something we were opposed to. We believe now that the form is much more focused and that the vast majority of our members are never going to come across Form 696.

"And perhaps the ones that do encounter it, they're working in an environment that needs police attention to ensure their safety."

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