Getting upstream of the alcohol problem

Posted: Thursday 8th August 2013

Blog: 2013

Matthew-NightSince my election I have spent one day a week with our officers and staff, to experience the challenges they face every day keeping our communities safe. As your representative I hold the police to account on your behalf, and I cannot do that from behind a desk, I need to see the reality at the sharp end for myself. Last Thursday, I spent a shift with one of Humberside Police’s Incident Resolution teams, who respond to emergency calls from the public. The dedication, bravery and professionalism of our officers and staff is something we should all be proud of, and when you view life through their eyes, you appreciate them even more.

We spent over nine hours throughout the afternoon and evening responding to calls for service, it was absolutely non-stop, and almost without exception there were two factors which underpinned every call we attended, drink and drugs, but especially drink. Anti social behaviour, domestic incidents and crime committed to fund addictions has become the mainstay of daily policing.  Alcohol related crime alone costs the nation between £8-13 billion pounds per year, an astronomical sum, and a massive strain on resources for the emergency services and our partners.

Think what we could do if we were able to plough that money back into the economy. That’s why it is vital that we get upstream of the problem and identify and deal with those individuals causing it before it falls to the police, the NHS and others to clean up the mess. In my Police and Crime Plan I have said we need a renewed effort on promoting and enabling drug and alcohol recovery. As well as investing in alcohol treatment I will look to exert greater influence in licensing decisions, prioritise drink drive campaigns and encourage responsible alcohol marketing. I will also explore new tactics to increase personal responsibility for dealing with drunken behaviour and criminality. I want to see a conditional caution for drunken offences rather than just issue a fixed penalty notice, which requires the offender to attend and pay for an alcohol awareness course, similar to what already happens with speeding motorists. We must have consequences that last longer than a hangover.

All too often we read stories of criminals trying to make excuses for their actions: ‘I was high on drugs’, ‘I was so drunk I didn’t know what I was doing’. I recognise addiction is an illness but it is one instigated through choice, and those bad choices are having a huge impact on the law abiding majority, and the police have become the safety net when all else fails. We are living in a world of stark choices, we must ensure the right people in society are protected and served, and the best way to do that is to get to the root of the problem.  


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