Shocking rise in youth drink crimes
THE number of young people prosecuted for being drunk and disorderly in Suffolk has rocketed by 175% in 10 years, it has been revealed.In 1993 just 130 youngsters under the age of 18 in the county were taken to court after drinking too much alcohol but that figure rose to a shocking 357 in 2003.
THE number of young people prosecuted for being drunk and disorderly in Suffolk has rocketed by 175% in 10 years, it has been revealed.
In 1993 just 130 youngsters under the age of 18 in the county were taken to court after drinking too much alcohol but that figure rose to a shocking 357 in 2003.
Overall the figures, released by the Home Office, show a 120% increase in the number of young people prosecuted for alcohol-related offences in the county between 1993 and 2003.
In Essex, youngsters prosecuted for being drunk and disorderly jumped by 95% over the same period, while total alcohol offences increased by 45%.
Last night, Chip Somers, project manager at Bury St Edmunds-based drug and alcohol treatment service Focus, warned the true scale of the alcohol problem in the county was yet to be revealed.
He said: "These figures not only reflect the drop in age for people presenting at Focus for treatment, but it also more accurately reflects the change in the way that people are drinking.
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"People are much more likely now to go out with specific purpose of getting really drunk. In the old days it used to be a by-product of going out, whereas now it's the aim.
"As a result, we're seeing far more young people on the streets, drunk and obviously disorderly – some 10 or 15 years ago it would have been a matter of shame but that has changed now, so it's commonplace."
Mr Somers added: "I think we're about to see a real explosion in the number of people who are going to become dependent on alcohol.
"There's a big increase in the amount of people that are drinking and the manner in which they are drinking it and if you carry on doing that long enough you will become dependent."
Chief Inspector Julian Blazeby, head of community safety for Suffolk police, said the force was "extremely concerned" by the figures.
"Children who consume alcohol put themselves and others at significant risk of harm," he said.
"This harm is not only caused by the effects of alcohol on the body but also by the risks that children are likely to take when under the influence of alcohol.
"Police work closely with a number of other agencies including the Drugs Action Team and Trading Standards to prevent alcohol being sold or served to minors.
"Sadly some youngsters get access to alcohol at home, those who should care for and protect their children, either turn a blind eye to their drinking or in some rare cases even encourage it.
"Parents need to be aware of the risks to the health and welfare of their children of allowing them to consume alcohol."
Trading standards officers in Suffolk carried out 45 test alcohol purchases between April 2004 and March 2005 and youngsters were sold alcohol on 28 occasions (68%). They said more visits would be made to licensed premises and off-licences in the near future.
Denise Robertson, director of ChildLine for the Midlands and East Anglia, said the charity last year helped more than 900 children who called with concerns about alcohol or drugs.
"Many children call us when they are under the influence of alcohol or other substances – some are as young as nine," she added.
"Young people tell us that alcohol in particular is readily available and easy to get hold of.
"Drinking is sometimes perceived by society as being less harmful than 'hard drugs' but it can put young people at serious risk of harm – for example leading to unsafe sex, injuring themselves or others, or getting into trouble with the law."
The worrying figures have been revealed as Suffolk police urged students who get their GSCE results tomorrow not to over indulge in their celebrations or commiseration.
Superintendent Tim Beach said: "Police and community support officers will be paying extra attention in particular areas where youths are known to hang around and any alcohol will be seized and disposed of."