Blanket ban busts anti-social boozers

New powers have immediate impact on anti-social drinking

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A controlled drinking area in the borough is proving just the tonic for areas previously plagued by beer guzzling street drinkers. Nuisance drunks in Hammersmith & Fulham have had a sobering jolt during the first week of a blanket ban on anti-social public boozing.

Police and council officers are now using the sweeping new powers to seize the bottles and cans of booze fuelled street drinkers and pour the liquor down the drain.

Groups of drunks, who congregate on benches and in parks to hurl abuse at passers-by, are being targeted and persistent boozers who refuse to hand over their grog face a £500 fine and a night in the cells.

Met police Inspector Bill Heasman, who has worked with the council to get the scheme up and running, said, "Officers are now on the look out from problem drunks on the borough's streets and in public areas. The CDA provides officers with additional powers to deal with anti social drunks. I hope that by enforcing the CDA with our partners we will improve the quality of life of local people who are going about their daily business."

The borough wide controlled drinking area is only the third to be introduced in the capital and was formally launched at a street drinking hotspot in Loris Gardens, Hammersmith last Wednesday.

The tough tactics to squeeze out the booze crews were adopted after numerous complaints from residents and a council investigation revealed the true extent of the problem.

Cllr Greg Smith, cabinet member for crime and anti-social behaviour, says, "The street party is over for the lager fuelled street drinkers in the borough. We're telling the drunks who end up
harassing and intimidating the vast majority of law-abiding residents, to get off the booze and get off our streets."

The council investigation revealed that from July 2005 to June 2006 the police had 5,320 calls for disturbance in a public place due to alcohol and 1,562 calls for drunkenness in the small borough.

A borough wide head count of street drinkers in August this year showed that there were at least 107 drunks on the street at that time. Hammersmith & Fulham also has the fifth highest levels of cirrhosis in England and Wales as well as the highest alcohol-related ambulance call outs in London and the highest level of alcohol dependency in London.

Local resident Ashley Stafford said, "This initiative is a strong signal from the council that they want to hand the local streets back to the local residents, enabling us to walk out without worrying about stepping in vomit, tripping over discarded cans or being accosted by
alcohol toting often aggressive people."

The new measures affect every street and open space in the borough, targeting street drinkers and curbing the behaviour of rowdy drunks.

Sarah Robinson, Hammersmith Community Gardens Association Chairman, says, "We welcome the controlled drinking order brought in across Hammersmith and Fulham. People of all backgrounds are welcome to visit the community gardens in Godolphin and Loris Road but some forms of
behaviour intimidate other people and prevent them from enjoying the gardens. We hope that the controlled drinking order will encourage people to enjoy our green spaces and participate in community activities."

Cllr Smith concludes, "This is not about stopping the vast majority of residents enjoying a glass of wine with a picnic or outside a pub. This is about giving the police an additional tool to
target a minority of persistent street drinkers and rowdy louts who are making residents'lives a misery."

The new measures do not make street-drinking illegal but give the authorities powers to confiscate alcohol. Within the controlled drinking area a police officer can require a person to hand over open containers of alcohol, such as cans or bottles. If a person refuses to hand over an open container or continues to drink, having been warned not to, they can be arrested. The maximum fine is £500. The measures will not affect private property or beer gardens set aside by a pub.

November 24, 2006