The blueprint for a groundbreaking responsible drinks retailing scheme designed to break down barriers between shop-keepers and police is being rolled out to local authorities .
Called A New Way of Tackling Public Under-age Drinking: Community Alcohol Partnerships
(CAP) , the scheme encourages retailers, police, schools, Trading Standards, youth clubs and the local press to work together
to combat illegal teenage drinking, with
participants committed to sharing
information on potential problems.
The blueprint draws on the results of a successful pilot scheme that started in St Neots, Cambridgeshire,
last year. It was created by the Retail Alcohol Standards Group , and involv ed 17 drinks shops, police and Trading Standards officers.
The scheme included regular patrols by police of hotspot areas; confiscation of alcohol from under-18s; a training session for independent retailers; issuing of signage; and an alcohol awareness workshop for parents. It also
involved Trading Standards officers working shifts in Spar branches to gain an understanding of the issues faced by retailers, and police visits to schools and colleges to talk to pupils about the legal and criminal issues relating to alcohol.
Pilot takes off
The pilot resulted in a 94% decrease in under-18s found in possession of alcohol from August 2007 to February 2008. There was also a 42% decline in anti social behaviour at key
areas, and a 92% decrease in alcohol-related litter.
Evaluation of the scheme showed that it did not create new
problem areas , and local residents felt that public spaces were "more pleasant than previously, cleaner, and there were fewer incidents of group drinking".
Even the Department of Health, in its critical report this week, admitted that the St Neots scheme had achieved "tangible evidence of improvement". The pilot was also "revenue neutral", according to Inspector Mark Woolner of St Neots district police . "It does not cost any extra money, it's simply a new way of working, firstly in joint patrols and activities with Trading Standards, and secondly, bringing retailers on board rather than making them the enemy," he says. "It's about intelligence gathering as much as enforcement."
A similar scheme has now been introduced in Cambridge city centre and there are plans to
adopt it in Reading, Kent and North Yorkshire.
scheme is based
on what the RASG calls "the three pillars of education, enforcement and public perception". Chairman Nick Grant says the group "is keen to spread this
good practice and is happy to speak to any local authorities who think CAP can work in their area".
Spreading the concept
By making the programme available to all government departments and local enforcement agencies via
a website, the WSTA
wants to tackle anti-social behaviour across the country. Chief
executive Jeremy Beadles says: "This guide shows how a community approach can have a real impact in combating under-age drinking. It's a scheme that delivers real results."
He adds that gaining positive local media coverage helps improve recognition among the wider community that retailers are often the victims of attempted under-age purchasing and should be seen as the "front line of enforcement rather than the cause of the problem".
The blueprint's strength lies in its recognition that
towns and cities
will each have different demographic and social problems. The model
deliberately steers clear of offering prescriptive solutions, and instead identifies key principles for success, along with potential barriers and how to overcome them.
Tesco, which was among the retailers involved in the pilot, is calling on the government to repeat the initiative around the country
to curb alcohol-related crime and misuse. Lucy Neville-Rolfe, executive director for corporate and legal affairs, says: "We believe the successful roll-out of the St Neots model depends on the level of support and co-ordination the government is willing to offer, and call upon ministers to throw their weight behind such new projects."
The St Neots scheme
shows what can be done with the existing tools for enforcement, at no extra cost to the organisations involved. But the onus is now on local authorities to encourage
unified thinking between schools, parents, retailers and the wider community. "If CAP shows anything, it is that collaborative working allows a community to take control of its destiny and solve problems of public under-age drinking at a local level,"
says the WSTA.
What do Community Alcohol Partnerships involve?
Sharing best practice and training ideas among retailers
Trading Standards officers meeting personally with shopkeepers
Seizing alcohol from under-18s and proxy purchasers
Working with press to promote positive stories
Trading Standards and police talking at schools and colleges
Sending information out to parents and organising alcohol awareness workshops
Giving retailers the telephone numbers of Trading Standards and police so they can immediately report attempted under-age or proxy purchasing
Issuing letters and leaflets to explain the law in the area and the implications of breaking it
An awards ceremony to recognise those who have made a major contribution to its success.
Don't miss OLN's RDR awards for 2008
Entries are open for this year's Responsible Drinks Retailing Awards, run by OLN and sister magazine the Morning Advertiser.
The awards recognise best practice in retail and are a great way to show
just how much you are doing to avoid selling to under-age drinkers, uphold the law and support your community.
The judging panel will be looking for a consistent approach to promoting the responsible sale of alcohol, including evidence of local initiatives, along with endorsements from police and local authorities.
For full details and an entry form call Sarah Stevens on 01293 610403, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, visit responsibledrinksretailing.co.uk
to download an entry form. Please return your form no later than Sept 5 . The awards lunch will be held at the Landmark Hotel in London on Nov 11.