Street drinking: Letter from the Inspector

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I would like to take the opportunity to respond to the very well written letter from Mrs A Milnes regarding street drinking (Free Press, July 30), as I suspect that her views may reflect those of others.

I would like to take the opportunity to respond to the very well written letter from Mrs A Milnes regarding street drinking (Free Press, July 30), as I suspect that her views may reflect those of others.

Like many of you, I live and work in Spalding and so I’m very familiar with the issues surrounding street drinking.

Street drinking remains an area of concern for people from across South Holland that live, visit or work in Spalding town centre.

This is a national problem, and not restricted to our area. Last year, the Spalding Guardian launched its ‘We’ve Had Enough’ campaign. This reflected the strength of local feeling about drinkers and associated anti-social behaviour in Spalding.

I have never claimed that street drinking has reduced. What I have reported is the fact that calls from members of the public about street drinking have significantly reduced compared to last year. Calls about drunken behaviour are down 70 per cent on last year.

Operation Trunk was created to deal with this issue and I have officers committed to street patrols on foot and on bicycle every day. The area is also patrolled by members of South Holland District Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Team.

We continue to deal with this because the public tell us this is an issue that gives them concern. A year ago we were getting a significant number of calls from the public about street drinkers.

Although calls from the public about street drinking have now dramatically reduced, we are still targeting this. For example in April we dealt with 75 street drinkers, while only receiving four calls from members of the public complaining about drinkers.

In May we dealt with 39, while over the same period we had only seven calls from members of the public. June was particularly busy: we dealt with 80 street drinkers and had 18 calls from members of the public.

However in July, despite the same level of policing activity, we have only come across 15 drinkers.

We focus on all parts of the Designated Area. To give an idea of the extent of our activity, in June street drinkers were found and dealt with at the locations listed: Riverbank, Double Street 26, Hall Place 10, Gore Lane 9, Victoria Street 8, Commercial Road 8, Castle Sports Centre 5, Swimming Pool 4, Westlode Street 3, Chapel Lane 2, Red Lion Street 2, Churchgate 2, Abbey Passage 2.

This reflects the area’s mentioned in Mrs Milnes’ letter. Reassuringly, we also regularly patrol Ayscoughfee Gardens and didn’t come across any street drinkers in June.

The Coronation Channel does not form part of the current DPPO area. It is unlikely that this will change until the introduction of new legislation early next year. However, it does still form part of our patrol plan and we will still deal with anti-social behaviour along Coronation Channel.

Spalding town centre is under a Designated Public Places Order (DPPO). I think I need to clarify exactly what our powers are under the DPPO.

Drinking in the street isn’t illegal. While it is not an offence to consume alcohol within a “designated” area, the police have powers to control the consumption of alcohol within that place. If we believe someone is consuming alcohol or intends to consume alcohol we can:

*Require them to stop.

*Confiscate the alcohol from them.

If someone, without a reasonable excuse, fails to comply with the officer’s request they are committing an offence which can result in a penalty notice or a fine up to £500.

Unfortunately, the police cannot fine street drinkers unless they go on to commit anti-social behaviour or refuse to surrender their alcohol.

Frustratingly for some, drinking within the DPPO area is not enough – all we can do is remind drinkers that they are in a no-drinking zone, confiscate the alcohol and pour it away.

This may seem strange to some people. Many of us do not like to see people drinking in the street and may call it unpleasant or anti-social.

However, the police have to work within the strict legal definition of anti-social behaviour rather than the more generally used interpretation of the term.

There is new legislation going through the parliamentary process at present. This new law will replace the current DPPO law. I am working behind the scenes with our MP John Hayes and members of the district council to ensure that the new law meets our needs. We are fighting hard for the introduction of ‘on the spot fines’.

While the outcome of the new law is still under debate, one consequence of our activity is that Spalding has been selected by the Home Office to be used as a case study for the new legislation.

We use Twitter to let people know about our work on Operation Trunk. The feedback that we receive on our @spaldingpolice Twitter account is generally supportive of the action that we are taking.

So is our action a success or a failure? Our critics may say that as there are still street drinkers, then what we are doing isn’t working.

All in all, I hope that people feel reassured by the action we are taking under the limitations of the current law. Street drinking is a complex social issue with no ‘quick wins’.

People are still drinking in the town centre, although they tend to have moved out of view of the public.

The fact that we are receiving significantly less calls from the public about street-drinking would suggest street drinkers are having less impact on people going about their normal business in the town centre.

I was recently told that market traders are returning to Spalding market since Operation Trunk has cleared the shopping areas of drinkers.

Ultimately, of course, it won’t be me, but you, who will decide on our success.