Last Friday I went out on patrol with the police in Camborne to see first-hand some of the excellent work they have been involved in trying to tackle alcohol abuse in the town. The Safer Camborne Project is a great example of different agencies in the community working together to deal with a common problem. Launched at the beginning of the year to tackle local concerns about anti-social behaviour in the town, it brings together church groups, homelessness charities, the police, the pubs and local retailers to create a joined up approach.
It starts with responsible retailers. The police had started to notice that certain high alcohol ciders and beers were particularly associated with street drinking. For instance Frosty Jack, which has a 7.5 percent alcohol volume and was being sold in three litre bottles, was often the drink of choice for those with alcohol problems because of its very low cost per unit. So retailers in the town, including Tesco, came together and agreed to withdraw this drink from their shelves. Some retailers, such as Costcutter, have gone further and reviewed the whole range of drinks they stock.
Next, the pubs have a role to play. There has been some great progress in this area in Camborne in recent years and the pubs are really doing their bit. It starts with developing a closer relationship between pubs and the police so that landlords don’t fear that if they flag up a problem, it might count against them when their licence is next up for review. Instead, those who work with the police to tackle problem drinking should receive extra credit when it comes to renewing their licence. Initiatives range from barring problem drinkers from all the pubs in Camborne to giving assertiveness training to staff so that they are more willing to refuse to sell alcohol to those who have already had enough.
The Police have done their bit by targeting those who are causing the most problems and are really focusing on preventing street drinking. They are also much more visible around the town earlier in the evening and spend time in the pubs so that they can detect potential problems much earlier. Their very presence earlier in the evening can make people think about their actions, strengthen the authority of staff in pubs and deter problem behaviour later at night.
Finally, it can’t all be about tough crack downs. We have to recognise that associated with severe alcohol abuse is a lot of vulnerability. When people’s lives fall apart, for whatever reason, there need to be groups there ready to lend a hand and help people put things back together again. That is where local churches and homelessness charities are playing their part.
George Eustice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.