Launching a weekend crackdown on excessive alcohol consumption, the national police lead on licensing, chief constable Adrian Lee, claimed efforts by pubs and clubs to tackle excessive drinking had ‘barely scratched the surface of a problem that is blighting our communities’.
Lee, who last year called for ‘drunk tanks’ to make alcohol abusers responsible for their cost to society, said he felt little progress had been made over the past 12 months. He admitted that individuals needed to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their drinking, but claimed real change would require ‘strong oversight’ of the alcohol industry.
“We need to look at ways of dealing with the price and availability of alcohol and effective treatment for offenders with alcohol problems,” he said
This weekend, police officers will step up patrols on streets deemed as violence ‘hot spots’ and licensed venues will trial a breathalyser scheme offering customers the chance to test their own intoxication levels. In Loughborough, a number of venues will be trial a mandatory breathalyser test for customers as a condition of entry.
Partnership not punishment
In response, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) argued that the situation was ‘nowhere near as desperate’ as made out.
“By every measure, sales and consumption of alcohol are down dramatically as are incidents of disorder. “Over seventy per cent of all alcohol sold in the UK is for consumption in the home and total alcohol consumption is at its lowest for a century,” said ALMR chief executive, Kate Nicholls.
“Additionally, instances of alcohol-related violent crime have declined 32 per cent since 2004. To suggest that our towns and city centres have become unmanageable no-go zones is misleading and unhelpful.”
Calling for better co-operation between licensees, local authorities and local police forces, Nicholls warned that 'heavy-handed blanket measures' may have the unintended effect of creating or displacing problems.
“Clumsy responses such as a blanket introduction of mandatory breath tests and a roll-out of drunk tanks may not have the intended effect and could simply increase consumption and problems in a domestic setting,” she warned.
“Our staff members behind the bars and on the doors already do a fantastic job managing customers and there is a risk that heavy-handed measures may only displace the problem. Antagonising large queues and groups of people will likely increase the risk for frontline staff already in harm’s way. We also need to be careful that we do not push any problems into the home, away from where we can deal with them.”