Adrian Lee, who is also chief constable of Northamptonshire Police, called for a renewed focus on pricing of alcohol and said “strong oversight” of the industry was needed.
He was speaking at the launch of this weekend’s national crackdown on alcohol abuse, which will include breathalyser trials being set up, where customers can choose to test their alcohol levels. In Loughborough, a number of venues will be trialling a mandatory breathalyser test for all customers.
Last year Lee called for ‘drunk tanks’ as a method of making irresponsible drinkers responsible for their cost to society. Today he said he feels little progress has been made over the last year and that there was a genuine need for more action.
He said: “We raised this issue last year and got real support from the public, other emergency services, health services, some parts of the alcohol industry and politicians. We have seen increased efforts in the last 12 months from the alcohol industry and licensed venues to tackle excessive drinking, but these efforts have barely scratched the surface of a problem that is blighting our communities.
“Voluntary measures such as stopping the production of ‘super strength’ products in large cans, a commitment to responsible promotion of alcohol in shops and supermarkets and a small investment in education in schools are steps in the right direction. But they are small steps. There is much more to be done
“To make real change we need 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. “
Lee admitted that individuals also need to take “personal responsibility for their drinking” to break a culture of social tolerance of binge drinking.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said the truth of the situation was “nowhere near as desperate”.
She said: “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. 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.
“Pubs and clubs across the UK are investing time, energy and money in promoting best practice and partnership schemes such as Best Bar None and they are working. Earlier this year a National Pubwatch report stated that 79% of police believed Pubwatch schemes had contributed to declining levels of crime.
“If a problem arises in a certain area, we want to work with local authorities and local police forces to address those issues; 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.
“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.”
This weekend’s campaign will see forces across the country targeting ‘violence hot spots’ where people who appear to be excessively drunk could be asked to leave the town or city. There will be road show events to promote responsible drinking, and street pastors will be on hand in town centres to offer advice and support.
Officers will also visit schools to speak to pupils about alcohol awareness, as well as universities where police are targeting the thousands of new students taking part in fresher’s week celebrations.