Police chiefs back plan to hit boozers in the pocket

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PLANS to hit boozers with a minimum price for alcohol have been backed by North East police bosses.

Drinking is linked to half of all crimes across the region, sparking support for moves to tackle the problem by Northumbria Police Chief Constable Sue Sim and Vera Baird, the force’s newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

Mrs Baird said: “My job is to ensure that priorities identified by local communities are dealt with by Northumbria Police and that police resources are used in the most efficient and effective way.

“People have told me that one of their key concerns is alcoholrelated antisocial behaviour in neighbourhoods and in our towns and cities.

“I am also concerned that officers spend a large amount of time dealing with alcohol-related crime and disorder.

“If an increase in the minimum price of alcohol reduces alcohol-related crime, and research shows that this could be by as much as 28,900 crimes a year, then I fully support it.”

Alcohol features in 40 per cent of violent crime in the Northumbria area, and in 55 per cent of crimes of domestic abuse from August 2011 to July 2012, alcohol was considered a factor.

The commissioner has said many of these problems are caused by “pre-loading” binge drinking before a night out, fuelled by heavily discounted alcohol sold in supermarkets and off licences.

The pricing proposal has been backed by councils in Newcastle and South Tyneside.

Last week, the Government launched a 10-week consultation process which could see multi-buy deals in supermarkets and off licences banned.

Mrs Sim said: “Any new approach that will help reduce the availability of cheap alcohol, give communities a greater say over licensing in their area and reduce pressure on the police has to be welcomed,” she said.

“Changes to the law which could reduce crime and disorder and improve people’s health can only be positive.”

As well as crime and disorder, low price alcohol has a significant impact on the health of the region.

The North East has the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in England for men and the second highest rate for women, and each year alcohol misuse costs the region’s NHS £264.49million.

Alcohol campaigners in the North East claim the Government’s decision to ignore local experts over minimum pricing will cost 1,000 lives in England and Wales each year.

Balance North East has recommended a unit price of 50p.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham