GALLERY: Click or flick across the above image for more pictures from our night on Dean Street (iPhone app users tap the 'Photos' tab).
IT was 1am and Albury’s Dean Street was like a ghost town.
Three people were lined up at a hot dog van and five waited for taxis at the rank outside Zed Bar.
The loudest thing was a Hawaiian shirt worn by a man stumbling across Kiewa Street.
A block down and Albury police officers Sgt Steve McCaig and Sgt Mark Watson were walking out of the police station to do foot patrols along Dean Street.
Sgt McCaig, the city’s licensing supervisor for seven years, said it had been a quiet night on Dean Street but busier in the suburbs with break and enters, noise complaints, domestic disputes and drink-drivers.
By the time it was 1.30am, if there was going to be trouble it would have started then as the lock-out was enforced and revellers spilled onto the street.
The effect the presence of two officers had on the sparse groups of people as we walked east on Dean Street was noticeable.
They received furtive glances, one man re-considered walking across the road on a red signal and, in a rarity, two people greeted them politely with a “good evening, sir”.
“That’s twice in a row, that’s weird,” Sgt McCaig said.
Two women teeter out from The Bended Elbow, eyes widening when they spot the two officers chatting with security guards.
“You can handcuff us,” one giggled.
Sgt McCaig rolled his eyes but he knows it could be a lot worse.
“You get a little bit tired of it,” he said.
“But they’re happy — intoxicated though. You do get people who are aggressive.”
Sgt McCaig and Sgt Watson do a “walk through” at the pub to check no licensing laws are being breached.
They check the capacity at the venues, how many security guards are on, if water is freely available and whether there are any incidents to report.
They kick out patrons who are too drunk and make sure the “no shots after midnight” rule is enforced.
Sgt McCaig said things are a lot better in Dean Street compared to five years ago. The lock-out and no shots rule has helped.
He said security guards from the clubs and pubs had also helped. They patrol for metres up and down the street, not just directly outside their venue, and do so for an hour after the pubs and clubs close.
“It really complements us,” Sgt McCaig said.
He said food venues, however, needed to employ security guards to temper congregating crowds; and the availability of taxis was still a problem.
The officers go back to the station to jump into a car to respond to a job in Lavington.
As Sgt McCaig said earlier, at least for this Friday night, the suburbs was where the action was at.
At 3am, outside City Walk Arcade, about five people sat on a bench busking.
Anthony Reid, known as Bones, is 28 and has busked on Dean Street in the wee hours for the past eight months.
“It’s fun. Everyone’s out partying and we’ve come to make money,” he said.
He and his mate Reid Mitchell, 18, met busking and the pair often witness some form of violence on Dean Street.
Bones has seen a girl get a chunk of flesh bitten from her leg and Reid saw a man back-hand his girlfriend.
“If you’re looking for a fight you can find one and lots of people are looking for a fight,” Bones said.
One of their friends, who did not want to be named, said she generally went out twice a week and that trouble was easy to find.
Because she’s out a lot, she said, there are those who offer her mushrooms, ecstasy and “lots of different things” — not that she takes them.
She said the lock-out and the no shots after midnight rule meant some people were looking to drugs to get a buzz.
Dean Street was at its busiest at 3am as revellers walk from Paddy’s to taxi ranks and late-night eateries.
Sweethearts Pizza owner Daryl Betteridge, who’s had about 700 through his doors that night, sits on the bonnet of his car out the front.
At least five security guards from the Bended Elbow and Paddy’s are also there. Mr Betteridge said from 3am on Saturday and Sunday mornings, the guards stop by.
“This flies in the face of what I think is ill-informed or inflammatory comments that the food shops should have security guards,” he said.
“I firmly believe that we have enough security guards when it’s needed. It’s controlled and it works.”
The exceptions to that are the recent injuries suffered by Brian O’Boyle and Jason James.
Mr O’Boyle was king-hit from behind on November 29 and was left with a broken jaw, nose and scratched eye.
Mr James is permanently blind in his left eye after he was bashed in an unprovoked attack on November 11.
Both incidents occurred at the eastern end of Dean Street between David and Olive Streets.
“Unfortunately a couple of incidents, and rightly so, have brought it into the light,” Mr Betteridge said.