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Ipswich: Reducing the Strength campaign hailed at national conference in Wherstead

PUBLISHED: 13:52 05 March 2014 | UPDATED: 13:56 05 March 2014

Back row from left to right: Chief Inspector Andrew Mason, Simon Aalders, Mike Nicholas, David Paterson, Shane Brennan.  Front row from left to right: Henry Ashworth, David Ellesmere, Roger Grosvenor.

Back row from left to right: Chief Inspector Andrew Mason, Simon Aalders, Mike Nicholas, David Paterson, Shane Brennan. Front row from left to right: Henry Ashworth, David Ellesmere, Roger Grosvenor.

Archant

A national summit held in Ipswich to celebrate the pioneering effort to banish the sale of super-strength, low-cost alcohol in the town was a “fantastic success”, police said.

More than 200 delegates from across the UK heard how the Reducing the Strength initiative has successfully tackled street drinking in the town.

The trailblazing project was set up by police and partner agencies including the East of England Co-op. Since it began it has attracted the attention of constabularies and councils throughout Britain.

Some have already replicated the scheme which aims to prevent the excesses of street drinking, make a better environment for the public and businesses, and help vulnerable alcoholics into rehab.

Organisations from across the country and representatives from the drinks’ industry gathered at Wherstead Park, Wherstead, for the first national Reducing the Strength conference on Tuesday.

Delegates heard how the voluntary initiative in Ipswich has achieved significant results as part of a wider campaign tackling street drinking in the town.

Two thirds of the town’s 147 off-licensed stores are now signed up to the initiative and the number of reports of street drinking in the town continues to reduce.

The conference heard how the number of recognised members of the street drinking community has reduced by more 50%, dropping from 70 in 2011 to 31.

Since the launch of the campaign in September 2012, organisers have been inundated with requests for information and assistance from police forces and councils across the UK that have been looking to emulate its success.

Chief Inspector Andrew Mason said the conference was a “fantastic success”.

He said: “We are delighted with the number of people who attended from all over the UK, and with the extremely interesting presentations given by experts from organisations affected by Reducing the Strength.

“It was important for us to hold this event as a chance to give all the people who have shown an interest a comprehensive update on why we introduced the campaign, how we did it, and what it has achieved.

“But also, crucially, we wanted to host an interesting debate on the range of issues and debates it has initiated and to clarify our specific aims and intentions.

“We identified a serious problem with street drinking in Ipswich, which was affecting individuals and communities and we had to take action.

“We have worked with our local businesses and asked them to join us, voluntarily, in removing specific products from their shelves.”

Presentations were delivered by a spokesman for the association of convenience stores, the head of public affairs and corporate responsibility for Heineken UK, and the chief executive of the Portman Group – the responsibility body for drinks producers in the UK.

In addition a representative from Thames Reach, a London-based charity helping the homeless and vulnerable, addressed the audience.

Speakers also included Chief Inspector Andrew Mason, of Suffolk Constabulary, who has been one of the main driving forces behind the Reducing The Strength campaign, along with Roger Grosvenor of East of England Co-op and Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere.

Ch Insp Mason added: “The local problems experienced by the delegates who attended on Tuesday will differ widely, but the community issues caused by street drinking and the consumption of super-strength alcohol are very similar in all areas.

“I hope delegates have been able to take away some ideas and considerations for tackling issues in their towns and cities.

“We have seen our campaign spread out to Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill and will be looking to further roll it out across Suffolk.”

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