'Alcohol think tank' aims to combat binge-drink issues
Experts met with the region's police commissioner to discuss how to tackle the negative impact alcohol can have on society.
Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg has vowed to put the cost of alcohol-related crime "at the top of his agenda".
A recent report put the bill for dealing with alcohol- related crime at £366 million a year in Devon and Cornwall.
The sum, published in the Peninsula Strategic Assessment, was put together by police and other agencies that deal with alcohol issues.
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In Plymouth alone, the cost is estimated at £80 million a year, according to Plymouth City Council's alcohol strategy.
Mr Hogg held an "alcohol think tank", called Action for Change, at Plymouth's Mount Batten Centre yesterday to come up with new ways of tackling the problem.
Sixty attendees, including alcohol policy experts, Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston – who campaigned for 'minimum alcohol pricing' – representatives from the pub trade and health services along with licensing officials, attended the meeting. Afterwards, Mr Hogg said: "Pre-loading – or the act of getting tanked up on cheap, shop-bought booze before going out – reduces the cost of a night out but the resultant cost to society is huge.
"This cannot just be a matter for the police. They cannot deal with this issue on their own. We have to find a way to marry best practice with financial commitment across public, private and voluntary sectors.
"Our task is to make sure the benefit of a thriving economy is not offset by its cost.
"There is no easy answer but we need to initiate cultural change in our cities, towns and villages.
"We all need to ask ourselves what kind of place do we want to live in."
Mr Hogg added: "I have a great deal of respect for the excellent partnership work that is already going on between organisations to try and come to terms with the effects of alcohol but I call on everyone to re-energise and refresh our approach to create a new multi-agency strategy to cut the costs of alcohol."
The conference heard that the cost of alcohol-related crime must not be allowed to cancel out the economic contribution of the evening and night time economy.
Mr Hogg called on the major supermarkets to join the debate.
Supermarkets were invited to the first think tank session but were not able to attend, said the police and crime commissioner.
He said he was disappointed the idea of a minimum price per unit of alcohol had lost momentum.