Police warning over rise in drink crime
POLICE in west Suffolk are facing a shocking increase in alcohol-related crime, the Chief Constable has warned.Alistair McWhirter has laid the blame for the rise on changes in licensing regulations that came into effect last November.
POLICE in west Suffolk are facing a shocking increase in alcohol-related crime, the Chief Constable has warned.
Alistair McWhirter has laid the blame for the rise on changes in licensing regulations that came into effect last November.
The Chief Constable said there had been a rise in alcohol-related crime of 300 incidents in the west of the county between April and August this year compared to the same period in 2004. .
And Newmarket, he said, was proving “particularly problematical and challenging” as a result of longer licensing hours.
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Combating this surge in alcohol-related disorder - described as “horrifying” by the area's MP - was proving “expensive”, Mr McWhirter added.
The Suffolk force's commander for the western division, Mark Cordell, blamed the rise in incidents this summer on the hot weather and the World Cup.
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But he said the impact of licensing law changes varied within west Suffolk.
He said: “The situation in Bury St Edmunds has improved considerably but in Newmarket it has gone the opposite way and it is difficult to say why because we have taken the same steps in both places.
“We'd like a simple answer to a simple problem but it isn't like that because it is about how individuals behave when they drink.
“We've already given extra resources to Newmarket and I would welcome more initiatives like joint visits with local licensing authorities.
“The fact they are not doing them is only part of the problem - there are number of different contributory factors.
“We have had a hot July and a World Cup in that time which has increased the number of offences.”
Richard Spring, MP for west Suffolk, said: “These are horrifying figures. The flip side of liberalised drinking laws is they must be enforced. And I know there is a feeling among the residents of Newmarket that they are not being enforced.
“I will be monitoring the situation carefully - I am meeting with the leader of Forest Heath District Council and we will be talking to the police because I know people are very worried.”
Robin Millar, a Forest Heath District councillor for Newmarket, said: “We are watching the new licensing laws very carefully to see they do not damage the character of Newmarket.
“We want people who have disturbed by noisy pubs and other similar problems to contact us because with the liberalised drinking laws we have been given extra powers to deal with problems.”
Frank Warby, St Edmundsbury Borough Council portfolio holder for public protection and vice-chair of the licencing committee, blamed drinking at home before going out as the trigger for the region's binge drinking problem.
“Some people will have half a bottle of vodka before they go out,” he said. “We can regulate but it is not down to the council - we can advise the public and we had a big push only a few months ago.”