Police get touch of booze-fuelled crime

A 'ZERO tolerance' campaign to stamp out alcohol-fuelled violence in problem-hit Suffolk towns is to begin – with extra resources drafted in to curb a rising tide of attacks attributed to drink.

By James Mortlock

A 'ZERO tolerance' campaign to stamp out alcohol-fuelled violence in problem-hit Suffolk towns is to begin – with extra resources drafted in to curb a rising tide of attacks attributed to drink.

Officers in west Suffolk will be stepping up their profile to blitz violent crime after a study found 81% of all attacks taking place in Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket after 7pm were linked to alcohol abuse.

The initiative, part of Operation Liberate, will take place throughout September, with increased patrols placed at "hot spot" areas at key times.

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One main objective will be to try and persuade clubbers and pub-goers to drink less to cut their risk of being involved in violence.

"I am very keen that the police should focus their resources on areas where they are needed," said George Lambton, of Newmarket Town Council.

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"The situation in Newmarket is peculiar in that we normally have a population of 16,000 people, and the policing resources we are allocated suit that figure.

"But at weekends, the town centre sees an influx of 2 or 3,000 extra people coming to Newmarket to visit the nightclubs, which obviously demands more police resources.

"The town council has been pressing for treatment as a special case for around four years, as weekend evenings can create a problem which is out of proportion to the norm. I am sure this initiative will make a difference."

Violent crime in some of the target zones has doubled during the past year, leading bosses to draft members of a dedicated police unit and officers from the Special Constabulary onto the streets to provide support for beat officers.

The Suffolk police helicopter and a mobile CCTV unit, which will work alongside cameras already in place, will also be used when possible to deter and detect any acts of violence during the course of the campaign.

Chief Inspector Mike Gooch, who is co-ordinating the campaign, said: "We are not trying to ruin anyone's fun but the statistics clearly speak for themselves. We are not asking people not to drink but would just ask them to consider the amount they consume on a night out.

"It is no secret that Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are our busiest in terms of policing and a large number of incidents we attend are related to alcohol.

"It is also clear that a significant proportion of victims of an assault will know their assailant and are likely to have been drinking in the same premises prior to the assault taking place. When under the influence of alcohol small matters, which would not normally provoke a response, see tempers flare and fists flying. This is clearly unacceptable behaviour."

Officers will also be working in partnership with clubs and pubs to try and reduce excessive alcohol consumption.

Landlords in the three main towns will be sent letters outlining concerns relating to alcohol fuelled violence in what is otherwise a very safe county, said a police spokesman.

They will be asked to work with the police and to refuse to serve those who are already the worse for wear because of alcohol.

They will also be asked to display posters advising their customers to stay sober, as well as providing intelligence to police about anyone who is unruly or may cause problems, either inside or outside their pubs or clubs.

"Violent crime is a priority and as such we are committed to dealing with it positively. This not only means reducing levels of violence but also increasing levels of reassurance and feelings of safety within our community," added Chief Inspector Gooch.

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