A BRAND-NEW campaign aimed at ending the blight of drunken behaviour on Littlehampton’s streets is now underway.
It follows a tide of rising concern among traders and residents over the levels of drunks roaming the town’s streets at all hours of the day and night.
The campaign, called Sensible on Strength, is a collaborative effort by Arun District Council, West Sussex County Council, Sussex Police, local GPs, Littlehampton traders, Stonepillow and the Crime Reduction Initiative (CRI).
It aims to persuade retailers to sell lower strength booze.
Sarah Meeten, licensing manager at Arun District Council, has helped to organise the initiative.
She explained that she and the team of partners have been toiling for more than six months to get the project’s foundations laid.
She said: “We have to look at the tools we have available to us and what we can and can’t do. This is something that we can do, a problem that we can work towards solving.
“We feel that the concern is there. We would desperately like to see this situation change and we are positive we will be able to make this happen.”
However, Sarah said there are hurdles that the group still needs to overcome – with the first being the ‘disappointing’ lack of support shown by licensed retailers, big and small.
Sarah explained: “We have spent a lot of time going to stores and talking to them about this scheme and we’re very disappointed about the uptake by local businesses at this time.
“We would like the licensed retailers to consider the more long-term effects this scheme has the potential to deliver.”
Sarah highlighted the benefits this would not only have on people’s physical and mental health, but also the positive impact it has on decreasing anti-social behaviour, reducing the level of shoplifting and theft, as well as creating better footfall in the town.
The idea is based on similar schemes running in Ipswich and Brighton, which have both experienced notable success, particularly when it comes to tackling anti-social behaviour.
The venture in Littlehampton is being welcomed by Sussex Police.
Inspector Marc Clothier said: “We know that super-strength alcohol is bought with the sole intention of getting drunk fast, and this has a profound effect on both the community, as well as those who are alcohol-dependent.
“This initiative is one of a range of measures that is being introduced in Littlehampton, the scheme enables retailers to take a level of responsibility towards reducing alcohol-related harm and do the right thing by the local community.”
However, critics of the plans have argued that cutting of availability of strong, cheap alcohol would have little impact on drunken behaviour.
They suggest that if street drinkers wanted to get drunk, they would just buy more, low-strength alcohol.
However, Mrs Meeten said: “The support services are telling us that when alcohol – lagers, beers and ciders – above 6.5 per cent are not available, it means people are much easier to deal with.
“They aren’t able to get to the point of intoxication as quickly.”
Today the Gazette will feature a range of stories from the Sensible on Strength campaign.