Addressing Anti-Social Behaviour Related to Alcohol Consumption: A Focus on Independent Retailer Month

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) linked to alcohol consumption is a significant issue that impacts communities across the UK, manifesting in various forms from public drunkenness and noise disturbances, to more serious offences like vandalism and violence. With cities like Norwich recently looking to expand their powers to be able to confiscate alcohol from individuals in a bid to curb alcohol related ASB, and other cities also strengthening their approach, it is clear that having a robust strategy is required to tackle this issue which can be a huge burden on local communities. In this article, written during Alcohol Awareness Week 2024 we will explore how addressing the problem requires a comprehensive approach involving education, community initiatives, law enforcement, and support services. As it is also Independent Retailer Month, this provides an excellent opportunity to explore the role of independent stores in this discussion, and engage local businesses in combined efforts to mitigate ASB and promote community safety. 

Understanding the Issue of Alcohol Related ASB

Alcohol-related ASB is often more prevalent in areas with high concentrations of pubs, bars, and clubs, particularly during weekends and holidays. However, it is not limited to urban areas; rural communities also face challenges, albeit in different contexts. Key issues associated with alcohol-related ASB include:

  • Public Disturbances: Excessive noise, especially at night, can significantly disrupt the lives of residents.
  • Vandalism: Damage to public and private property often escalates with alcohol consumption.
  • Violence: Alcohol can fuel aggressive behaviour, leading to fights and assaults.
  • Littering: Discarded bottles, cans, and other waste contribute to environmental degradation.

The impact of alcohol-related ASB on local communities is profound and multifaceted.  

Quality of Life: Persistent public disturbances, such as loud noise and rowdy behaviour, can severely affect the quality of life for residents. Sleepless nights and a constant sense of unease can lead to stress, anxiety, and a general decline in well-being.

Economic Costs: Vandalism and property damage incur significant repair and maintenance costs for both local councils and property owners. Additionally, businesses may suffer from reduced footfall and a tarnished reputation if an area is perceived as unsafe. 

Community Cohesion: Violence and aggressive behaviour can create an atmosphere of fear and distrust within the community. Residents may become less likely to engage in community activities or support local businesses, leading to a fragmented and less cohesive community. As small and local businesses are fighting more and more for footfall, this can have a profound impact on local high street viability which can further exacerbate the issue.

Environmental Impact: Littering and waste contribute to environmental degradation, making public spaces less attractive and potentially hazardous. This not only affects the aesthetic appeal of an area but also poses risks to wildlife and public health.

Public Services Strain: Incidents of ASB often require a response from police, emergency services, and local councils, placing a strain on public resources. The time and money spent addressing these issues could be better utilised in other areas of community development and support.

Long-term Effects: If left unaddressed, persistent ASB can lead to a cycle of decline. Areas plagued by regular incidents may experience depopulation, lower property values, and a decrease in investment, further exacerbating social and economic challenges.

By understanding these impacts, it becomes clear that addressing alcohol-related ASB is not only about managing immediate disruptions but also about safeguarding the long-term health and vitality of local communities. Effective strategies must therefore be comprehensive and collaborative, involving all stakeholders in the effort to create safer, more supportive environments for everyone.

Strategies for Addressing Alcohol Related ASB

1. Education and Awareness

  • School Programmes: Educating young people about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and the consequences of ASB can encourage responsible behaviour.
  • Public Campaigns: National and local campaigns can raise awareness about the impact of alcohol-related ASB and encourage community members to report incidents. Initiatives such as  Alcohol Awareness Week are great campaigns that seek to highlight the damaging  impact of alcohol beyond just the individual. 

2. Community Initiatives

  • Community Policing: Increased police presence in hotspots can be a strong deterrence for alcohol related ASB. Community policing initiatives, where officers engage directly with residents, can also build trust and improve reporting of incidents. The example from Greater Manchester Police in Leigh at Christmas 2023 is a great example of this and how it can have a positive impact.
  • Neighbourhood Watch: Strengthening local watch groups can help monitor and report ASB. Collaborative efforts between residents and law enforcement can create a safer environment.

3. Law Enforcement

  • Licensing Regulations: Strict enforcement of licensing laws ensures that establishments serving alcohol operate responsibly. Penalties for breaches, such as serving underage individuals or allowing disorderly conduct, must be stringent.
  • Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs): PSPOs can restrict alcohol consumption in designated areas, reducing public disturbances.

The 2018 report from Alcohol Concern has some interesting insights to share on alcohol related ASB and the role that different agencies have in tackling the issue. The report states that the Government estimate alcohol misuse costs the criminal justice system £11bn annually (report correct as at 2018), though the actual cost may be higher. The Blue Light project, from Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK, aims to develop better approaches for dependent drinkers. Many local authorities, police forces, and housing providers struggle to apply anti-social behaviour (ASB) laws to people with chronic alcohol issues.

The 2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act offers tools like ‘positive requirements’ in Criminal Behaviour Orders and Civil Injunctions to help address these challenges. However, agencies still find it difficult to use these new orders effectively. This report looks at how these powers are being used, the challenges faced, and examples of good practice.

This report is useful for ASB practitioners as it provides:

  1. Current Practices: Insights into how new powers are being applied.
  2. Challenges and Solutions: Real-world experiences and examples of good practice.
  3. Recommendations: Steps to improve the use of these powers in reducing alcohol-related crime and disorder.

Read the Full Report 

Quick Spotlight On: PSPO’s

Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are a crucial tool in addressing alcohol-related anti-social behaviour (ASB) within communities. Introduced under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, PSPOs provide local authorities with the power to deal with nuisances or problems in public spaces that are detrimental to the local community’s quality of life. These orders can have a significant impact on reducing alcohol-related ASB and improving community safety.

Implementation and Enforcement

Scope of PSPOs: PSPOs are designed to address specific behaviours or activities that are having a detrimental effect on the community. They can be tailored to target particular issues related to alcohol consumption, such as prohibiting drinking in certain areas, restricting the consumption of alcohol in public places, or banning the possession of open containers of alcohol.

Consultation Process: Before implementing a PSPO, local authorities must engage in a consultation process with the community, the police, and other relevant stakeholders. This ensures that the order reflects the specific needs and concerns of the local population. Public feedback is essential in shaping effective PSPOs that address the root causes of ASB.

Enforcement Mechanisms: Once a PSPO is in place, it is enforced by local authority officers, police officers, and community support officers. Breaching a PSPO can result in a fixed penalty notice or, in more serious cases, prosecution. These enforcement measures are critical in ensuring compliance and deterring individuals from engaging in prohibited activities.

Benefits of PSPOs 

Reduction in Public Disturbances: By restricting alcohol consumption in designated areas, PSPOs can significantly reduce instances of public drunkenness, noise disturbances, and associated anti-social behaviour. This creates a more peaceful and enjoyable environment for residents and visitors.

Enhanced Community Safety: PSPOs help to prevent violent incidents and aggressive behaviour linked to alcohol consumption. By controlling where and when alcohol can be consumed, these orders contribute to a safer community atmosphere.

Environmental Improvement: Limiting public drinking and the possession of open containers can reduce littering and waste, leading to cleaner and more pleasant public spaces. This also decreases the burden on local councils tasked with cleaning up after incidents of ASB.

Support for Local Businesses: PSPOs can improve the local economy by making public spaces more attractive to shoppers, tourists, and potential investors. When areas are perceived as safe and well-maintained, businesses are more likely to thrive, benefiting the community as a whole.

Challenges and Considerations 

Balancing Restrictions and Freedoms: Implementing PSPOs requires a careful balance between restricting harmful behaviours and respecting individual freedoms. Local authorities must ensure that PSPOs are proportionate, non-discriminatory, and focused on genuine issues of public concern.

Public Awareness and Compliance: For PSPOs to be effective, the community must be aware of the restrictions and the reasons behind them. Public information campaigns and clear signage in affected areas are essential for ensuring compliance and gaining public support.

Monitoring and Review: PSPOs should be regularly monitored and reviewed to assess their effectiveness and address any emerging issues. Community feedback and data on ASB incidents are crucial in evaluating the impact of the orders and making necessary adjustments.

Public Space Protection Orders are a powerful tool in the fight against alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. By implementing targeted restrictions on alcohol consumption in public spaces, PSPOs can help create safer, cleaner, and more vibrant communities. Their success, however, depends on careful planning, community engagement, effective enforcement, and ongoing evaluation. As part of a broader strategy that includes education, community initiatives, and support services, PSPOs can play a vital role in mitigating the negative impacts of alcohol-related ASB and enhancing the quality of life for all residents.

4. Support Services

  • Counselling and Rehabilitation: Providing support for individuals struggling with alcohol dependency can address the root causes of ASB. Rehabilitation programmes and counselling services are crucial in helping individuals change their behaviour.
  • Youth Engagement: Offering alternative activities and support for young people can reduce their likelihood of engaging in ASB. Youth centres, sports programmes, and mentorship schemes can provide positive outlets.

Independent Retailer Month – Engaging Small Business In the Discussion On Alcohol Related ASB

Independent Retailers: Challenges and Collaborative Solutions

Independent Retailer Month, celebrated each July, is a campaign that highlights the importance of local independent retailers to the community and economy. This month presents a unique opportunity to focus on the specific challenges independent retailers face due to alcohol-related ASB and to promote collaborative solutions:

Challenges Faced by Independent Retailers

  • Increased Security Costs: Independent retailers often need to invest in additional security measures to protect their premises from vandalism and theft.
  • Customer Deterrence: ASB can deter customers, leading to reduced sales and financial strain.
  • Reputation Damage: Areas known for ASB can develop a negative reputation, affecting the perception of local businesses.

Potential Collaborative Solutions For Independent Retailers

Community Engagement: By collaborating with local councils and community groups, retailers can participate in campaigns aimed at reducing ASB. By using their platforms, they can spread awareness about responsible alcohol consumption and the negative impacts of ASB.

Neighbourhood Initiatives: Independent retailers can join or support neighbourhood watch schemes, providing valuable eyes and ears in the community to monitor and report ASB.

Enhanced Security Measures: Retailers can work together to implement shared security solutions, such as CCTV systems and security patrols, reducing the individual burden on each business.

Public Space Improvements: Collaborating with local authorities on initiatives to keep public spaces clean and well-maintained can create a more pleasant environment, deterring ASB and attracting more customers.

Responsible Retailing: Independent retailers can commit to responsible retailing practices, such as not selling alcohol to underage individuals and refusing sales to visibly intoxicated customers. Highlighting these practices during Independent Retailer Month can reinforce their role in promoting community safety.

Support Networks: Establishing support networks where retailers can share experiences, strategies, and resources can strengthen their collective response to ASB.

Staff Training: Providing training for staff on how to handle potentially disruptive customers and manage alcohol sales responsibly is crucial. Training can cover topics such as recognising signs of intoxication, conflict de-escalation techniques, and legal responsibilities. Well-trained staff can act as the first line of defence against ASB. This is something that we can support with at Green & Burton ASB. We have specialist training provision for retailers to support with all aspects of ASB, from front line staff training to consultancy on your strategy and policy. Get in touch if this is something you would like to discuss…

Addressing Anti-Social Behaviour Related to Alcohol Consumption: A Focus on Independent Retailer Month

Addressing ASB related to alcohol consumption is a multifaceted challenge that requires a proactive and collaborative approach. By combining education, community initiatives, stringent law enforcement, and robust support services, communities can mitigate the negative impacts of alcohol-related ASB and foster a safer, more respectful environment for all residents. Independent Retailer Month offers a timely platform to highlight the challenges faced by independent retailers and engage them in collaborative efforts to combat ASB. By working together, local councils, law enforcement, community groups, and retailers can create a safer, more vibrant community for everyone. 

If you have found this interesting, have a listen to our partner Janine on the topic of Alcohol and ASB in a dedicated podcast episode. Janine sits down with a manager of a drug and alcohol service and ask them questions around many of the areas ASB practitioners’ struggle including:

  • Whether enforcing someone to get support can ever work 
  • What we can do when we make referrals but don’t get a positive response 
  • How to manage disguised compliance 
  • Whether alcohol-related positive requirements in injunctions/criminal behaviour orders can work

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