I find it difficult to decide whether I should be delighted or disturbed by the reports in last week’s Guardian regarding the co-ordinated raids on stores and the levels of street drinking over the last six months.
On the one hand, the news that at least 10 stores were raided is good to hear. It is disappointing, however, that approximately 50 per cent of those visited produced a haul of presumably contraband cigarettes.
I know there has been a huge increase in the number of off-licences that sell groceries as a sideline over recent years, but it does seem that the level of illegal activities being carried out on these premises is out of all proportion to the number of businesses.
Perhaps if the authorities actually had the powers to refuse licences in the first place, or the ability to deal effectively with those who break the law, then the public would have more confidence in the outcome of HMRC’s crackdown.
I am certain we will be reading in a few months time that the guilty parties will be appealing and continuing to trade for the next six months, or opening further venues where they can carry on their nefarious activities.
The report on the levels of street drinking being in decline in the area is also, unfortunately, not a matter for jubilation, but would appear to be the result of the public’s failure to report such instances.
It is not unbelievable that during six months only 10 examples of incidents out of 34 can be attributed to street drinking.
As stated, drunkenness and street drinking are not necessarily related activities. In fact, street drinking would seem to be a way of life for many these days and represents anti-social behaviour rather than criminal activity.
I note with interest that a month of 15-minute patrols of Gore Lane three times a day – as reported by our Community Policing Inspector – resulted in one person found street drinking.
The distance from the Police Station to Gore Lane and back would take 15 minutes to walk, so the time spent by the officers in the target area would be relatively small.
The fact that only one person was discovered there during the time spent in Gore Lane by the patrols is unsurprising.
To substantiate my assertion that the levels are not lower, perhaps I may be allowed to recount my experience during the last month of walking around Spalding during daylight hours.
• Almost daily sightings of people walking along the riverside with a can of beer in hand.
• Various men drinking on the bench next to the river at the rear of the Castle Sports complex.
• Regular drinkers occupying the picnic benches by the twin bridges.
• One person urinating under the footbridge over the river at the rear of the Castle Sports complex.
• Another urinating in the doorway to South Lincs Swimming clubhouse while their friends waited in the car to resume their journey.
• Yesterday afternoon, at 4.15pm, two men were sitting in the bus shelter in Pinchbeck Road at the end of West Elloe Avenue swigging cider from a two-litre plastic bottle.
While none of these incidents may be illegal, they are all anti-social and probably deserving of a call to 101 – but to what end?
Over the last two years, I have personally called 101 to report such matters, but nothing has been done about it and I have, therefore, abandoned my civic duty of reporting these frequent occurrences.
While I have no problem calling the police, if they are unable to respond due to other pressures, I do not consider it to be worthwhile in order to simple bolster statistics. I am sure I am not alone in this.