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Press Release - 16 April 2008

Community projects cut alcohol disorder, shows research

Initiatives to cut alcohol-related disorder problems through community projects have had a “considerable positive impact” in local areas, shows new research presented at a conference at the University of Bath today (Wednesday 16 April 2008).

Three city-centre initiatives in Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow were funded by the Alcohol Education & Research Council in 2003 with the aim of bringing together different groups to tackle problems associated with alcohol-related harm and disorder.

• Transport – improving transport links in order to assist with orderly dispersal of crowds and improve safety, such as by moving taxi ranks or increasing transport options.

These local initiatives, involving the police, hospitals, the local council, bar licensees, transport providers and the general public, set up projects in four key areas:

Some of the initiatives include increasing the number and frequency of late night buses and improving and moving taxi ranks in order to help disperse crowds more quickly.

Other projects involved working with ‘super-pubs’ to improve the environment and discourage binge drinking, and also training bar staff to help them head off problems associated with over consumption.

Talking CCTV cameras that relay commands from a central control room have been introduced in a number of areas, as have better lighting and police communication points to help avoid problems with violence, smashed windows and urinating in doorways.

Evaluation of the projects by the Mental Health Research & Development Unit in the University of Bath’s School for Health has shown that the projects have had some major benefits, including: a 10 per cent reduction in violent crime (Glasgow), a 25 per cent reduction in A&E recorded alcohol-related incidents (Cardiff) and 29 per cent reduction in ‘wounding’ (Birmingham).

However, some of these improvements contrast with other recorded statistics for the same period, for example the reduction in A&E recorded alcohol-related incidents in Cardiff occurred at the same time as a 33 per cent increase in police recorded alcohol-related incidents, and the reduction in crime in Glasgow occurred in the context of a 23 per cent increase in police incidents that were alcohol-related.

“Despite the inherent difficulties in interpreting such a range of data there can be no doubt that the community partnerships have had a considerable positive impact on the local environment,” said Dr Willm Mistral from the University of Bath who carried out the independent evaluation.

“The increased public awareness, stronger relationships with the license trade, improved environments and better late-night transport links have all brought benefits to the local area.

“It is highly likely that the deleterious effects of high-levels of alcohol consumption would be even worse in these community interventions were not taking place.

“In the face of a concerted push towards national deregulation of alcohol and the continued promotion of its consumption, these local actions are currently our best chance for minimising the extent of harm caused by excessive drinking.”

“At the heart of the problem is the fact that alcohol is too cheap and it is too available,” said Dr Mistral.

“Booze is 60 per cent more affordable than it was 20 years ago and there is a growing concern amongst the public about the problems caused by alcohol in our society.

“Whilst these local initiatives have made great progress in promoting local awareness and improving the situation on the ground, more needs to be done at a national level if we want to end the harm and disorder associated with excessive drinking.”

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