Cheap booze or social problems – what’s to blame for violent crime?

Buta Sangah in his Hylton Red House  shop.
Buta Sangah in his Hylton Red House shop.
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A SHOPKEEPER today questioned whether minimum alcohol pricing will have the desired effect.

Buta Sangah, who runs Billy’s general store in Rochdale Way, Red House, spoke out after the UK’s top policing body gave the proposal its support.

Durham Police Chief Constable Jon Stoddart – alcohol lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) – told a conference he believes increasing the minimum cots per unit of certain drinks will cut crime and deaths.

However, Mr Sangah doubts the plan will have the desired effect, and thinks in the end it will only further penalise businesses such as his.

“My trade is 25 per cent booze,” said the 57-year-old.

“It’s going to be affected if they up the prices. I think it’s gone up enough as it is.

“It’s more to do with other social problems that need addressing.

“These young people who are drinking, why not try getting them into jobs instead?”

In his speech at Ramside Hill Hotel in Durham, Mr Stoddart said: “Alcohol misuse ruins lives.

“Half of all violent crime is linked to alcohol and more than a third of domestic abuse cases involve it.

“Dealing with the damage done is costing police forces across England dearly – it is the main reason for overtime.

“The evidence shows that the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol would have a major impact on reducing not only crime, but deaths, hospital admissions and absenteeism.”

Despite the criticism from some quarters, conference organiser Balance, the North East’s alcohol office, is delighted with the police backing.

The group has long been campaigning for minimum pricing per unit, and Director Colin Shevills welcomed the Chief Constable’s speech.

Mr Shevills said: “Acpo’s support further confirms the importance of introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol.

“While we have relatively low crime rates, the annual cost of alcohol-related crime and licensing in the North East is estimated to be a staggering £316million.

“When police budgets are under pressure, we need to start addressing the root causes of the problems we see on our streets.

“Yes, there are other social problems, but what you’ve got to look at is that people are turning to alcohol as a prop because it’s too easy to get hold of.

“It’s 45 per cent more affordable than it was in 1980.”

He added: “It’s also being made more desirable, which particularly affects the uptake among young people.”

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