Places of safety for people too drunk to look after themselves is a common sense approach to help tackle alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder, says Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
Tony Lloyd was speaking as the Association of Chief Police Officers backed the idea of privately-run ‘drunk tanks’ to tackle alcohol-fuelled trouble in the UK’s town and city centres. Northamptonshire’s Chief Constable Adrian Lee, national lead on alcohol harm, suggests troublemakers should be put in cells run by commercial companies to sober up overnight, and made to pay for their care the next morning.
Welcoming a practical debate about how to deal with the culture of binge-drinking, which is an unsustainable drain on policing, Tony supports the idea of places of safety for vulnerable and drunken revellers to stay safe and cool off.
“A police cell is not the place for people who are vulnerable and so drunk they can’t look after themselves,” says Tony. “While I wouldn’t call them ‘drunk tanks’ – I don’t think that’s the right term – I do believe having places of safety for people who may otherwise become a victim of crime or a possible perpetrator, is a sensible, common-sense and viable approach to the problem.
“Places of safety are already used in some areas of Greater Manchester – somewhere the police can take a vulnerable person to, so they are kept out of harm’s way. Volunteers, such as Street Pastors and Street Angels, work alongside the police to look after the vulnerable and those who have had too much to drink, defusing difficult situations and helping to calm people who may have become aggressive before it escalates into violence.
Commenting on the suggestion that private companies should operate these facilities, billing individuals up to £400 for their care, Tony was sceptical.
“We have to be extremely cautious when it comes to charging people and I’m not convinced this would be an effective deterrent for those whose sole aim is to go out and get as drunk as possible, as quickly as possible, and in the wake of the G4S and Serco scandals, involving private companies in providing a facility like this is not the way to go.
“Providing places of safety, where people can get basic medical attention and a chance to sober up and cool off in itself saves money by freeing up police officers to do the job they should be doing – keeping our streets safe – and means drunken revellers aren’t clogging up our A&E departments.
“But this is just one approach to tackling the problem of binge-drinking and I welcome a wider debate on the issue. It’s this culture that we need to change and is the responsibility of police, local councils, the NHS, and licensees, to encourage responsible retailing, take strong action to reduce misuse and educate people on the impact of binge-drinking on themselves and others .”