Violence drops despite new drink laws
VIOLENT crime in Suffolk dropped 6% in the last three months of last year - despite the introduction of new 24 hour drinking laws.The number of violent offences recorded in the county fell from 2,819 between October and December 2004 to 2,641 for the same period last year, new data reveals.
By Danielle Nuttall
VIOLENT crime in Suffolk dropped 6% in the last three months of last year - despite the introduction of new 24 hour drinking laws.
The number of violent offences recorded in the county fell from 2,819 between October and December 2004 to 2,641 for the same period last year, new data reveals.
The drop comes despite new licensing laws, which came into force in November amid warnings of increased alcohol-related disorder.
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Nationally, violent crime recorded by police in England and Wales fell by 11% at the end of last year, with a 21% drop in serious violent crime, compared to the same period in 2004.
But the Government was accused last nightof using “bogus, inappropriate and spun” figures to back up its controversial 24-hour drinking reforms because it had released figures two months early.
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Police in Suffolk are putting the reduction in violence down to the good behaviour of partygoers and a police crackdown on booze-fuelled aggression.
Chief Superintendent Mark Cordell, of Suffolk Constabulary, said: “We are delighted that there has been a drop in violent crime across Suffolk in the three months leading up to Christmas (compared with the same period the previous year).
“We have been working hard with our partners to ensure that our streets remain safe places to live, work and socialise.
“Those who were enjoying the festivities and extended licensing laws must be praised for their general good behaviour.
“Tackling night time alcohol related offences is a priority for Suffolk police and I am pleased to say that initiatives under our Night Safe campaign, such as zero tolerance policing and the 'Lock 'em Inn' leaflet, have paid dividends.”
But Chief Supt Cordell added: “It must be emphasised that it is still early days and we are not becoming complacent.
“We will continue to tackle alcohol related and violent crime throughout the year to ensure that everyone can enjoy a night out in our county.”
The national violent crime figures include a six-week period when the police were given £2.5 million to target alcohol-related crime.
Shadow home secretary David Davis said of the figures: “The Government should not use these bogus, inappropriate and spun statistics to justify its 24-hour drinking proposals - especially just after the Home Secretary admitted how concerned he was that Government crime statistics were confusing.
“They should wait and assess the effect of longer drinking hours over a 12-month period at least.”
More than half of the outlets licensed to sell alcohol across Suffolk and Essex chose to extend their opening hours in November. But most adopted a prudent attitude, with only a few taking advantage of 24-hour drinking.
In Ipswich, some 200 outlets received extensions, while in Bury St Edmunds and Forest Heath the figure was 167 and 78 respectively.
Critics said they feared the extended opening hours could increase alcohol-fuelled crime and put pressure on over-stretched A&E departments.
But Matthew Ware, spokesman for the East Anglian Ambulance Service, said the new licensing laws had so far had no effect on the level of people treated for excessive alcohol consumption or assaults.
However, he added that the organisation would not be surprised if the situation changed during the summer months.
“In summer, there could be a slightly different story. People are far more likely to go out and stay out longer and hot weather and drinking do not seem to go together,” he said.
“We would not be surprised to see it change in the summer.”