Sussex Police claim that drink-related, public order offences have increased by 80% since the introduction of 24 hour drinking laws six months ago. Could a pilot fingerprint scanning scheme in Dorset point the way forward.
Residents groups are concerned that the increase in low-level anti-social behaviour such as harassment, common assault and rowdy behaviour has reached an intolerable level at the weekends and Sussex Police fear that it can only get worse during the summer months. There were over 460 reported incidents of low-level drunken behaviour since November compared to just under 260 the year before. Only five pubs were refused extended hours consent out of a total of over 380.
To put that into perspective serious violent crime reduced by 5% in the same period but many residents groups are more concerned with the low-level nuisance caused by drunks on the streets throughout the night and early morning.
Unlike many authorities, Brighton & Hove Council does not have a mechanism to assess the cumulative impact of bars, pubs and clubs on a particular neighbourhood and each application for extended hours is taken on its own merits.
Meanwhile in Yeovil in Devon, the In Touch Scheme obliges customers entering the six main drinking establishments in the town to register their personal details on a computer database that also scans their fingerprints to allow for unique future identification.
If a troublemaker is denied access to one pub his/her details are immediately transmitted to the others so that he/she can be denied entry there as well. The pilot scheme, funded by the Home Office at a cost of about £750 per scanner, is the first of its kind and has attracted interest across the world.
Civil libertarians have pointed out that it is a further erosion of freedom. Members of the public can refuse to participate but this will also result in denial of entry to the pilot establishments.
Most customers have enthusiastically supported the Yeovil pilot once it is explained that it is the interests of creating a safer environment for the vast majority of people who are seeking enjoyment rather than aggravation.
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Brighton & Hove City Council