ALCOHOL campaigners have given their backing to a police crackdown on underage drinking in Sunderland.
Stacks of booze have been snatched from youngsters as part of an illegal booze and antisocial behaviour operation in the city.
The alcohol, which includes a huge haul of lager and cider, has been taken from youngsters in Seaburn, Fulwell and Roker during the past two months.
The seizures earlier this month come after police announced they were stepping up patrols on the seafront in response to residents’ complaints about young people drinking and causing trouble on the coast.
Today, experts at Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said it was important that the problem of underage drinking was addressed.
Programme Manager Mary Edwards said: “Although more young people are choosing not to drink alcohol, there are still too many drinking too much.
“It is particularly concerning as here in the North East we have the highest rate of 11 to 15-years-olds who drink in England and the highest rate of under 18s admitted to hospital because of alcohol.
“Local police forces work hard to reduce the impact young people drinking on the street has on the individuals and the surrounding communities.
“As well as dealing with the problems caused by alcohol, we also need to focus on preventing the problems happening in the first place.”
As part of Operation Ecuador, officers have stepped up patrols in hotspot areas flagged up by concerned residents.
They have also teamed up with Sunderland City Council’s antisocial behaviour teams to target those responsible.
Off-licences are being targeted, with CCTV being monitored to target adults buying booze for underage youngsters.
Shops are being encouraged to adopt a Challenge 25 policy.
Ms Edwards said law enforcement needs to be part of a wider approach to the issue.
“Our region is drinking too much from an early age driven by alcohol which is too affordable, too available and too heavily promoted,” she said. “One of the growing issues we face is that most children acquire alcohol through their parents and other adults. It is vital that we highlight the damage that alcohol can cause young people.
“Consumption of alcohol at a young age can have a devastating effect on physical and mental development and can lead to a range of health issues. “Firstly, there are the obvious health risks such as dehydration, nausea, vomiting, anxiety and even loss of consciousness and alcohol poisoning. Alcohol consumption also leads to poor decision making and risk taking behaviour, making young people even more vulnerable.
“It is linked to an increased risk of accident and injury and a greater likelihood of being involved in crime - as a victim or an offender.”