Alcohol scheme hailed a success

TESCO in St Neots now has a security guard in its car park on Friday afternoons to prevent adults buying alcohol for children. The supermarket has taken the action following a pilot project introduced in St Neots to call time on underage drinking. The sc

TESCO in St Neots now has a security guard in its car park on Friday afternoons to prevent adults buying alcohol for children.

The supermarket has taken the action following a pilot project introduced in St Neots to call time on underage drinking.

The scheme has been so successful that the Home Office is considering rolling it out across the country.

The Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP), or 'The St Neots Approach' as it has now being called, was launched in September with the aim of preventing children drinking.

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Police, trading standards, retailers, charities and schools all worked together in response to residents concerns about the level of underage drinking and its impact on the community.

A survey carried out in Cambridgeshire in 2006 found 27 per cent of 12 and 13-year-olds and 49 per cent of 14 and 15-year-olds had drunk alcohol in previous week.

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CAP challenged this by seizing alcohol from children - some as young as 15 - after carrying out spot checks in St Neots Riverside Park and land behind St Neots Community College.

Alcohol testing kits were also used to determine if children with from plain plastic bottles were drinking soft drinks or alcohol.

At a meeting held on Monday night, the new chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, Mark Lloyd, said CAP had been a success story.

"Prior to this project, police and trading standards officers searched 129 children over nine evenings in St Neots, confiscating more than 100 bottles of larger, vodka and cider.

"Towards the tail end of this project we only confiscated four bottles of vodka and that was intersected during a proxy purchase," he said.

Retailers helped in the fight against underage drinking by refusing to serve adults if they believed they were buying the alcohol for minors, and Tesco has gone even further by having a security guard watching for proxy purchases, the meeting was told.

Leon Livermore, head of Cambridgeshire Trading Standards said: "Stores such as Tesco in St Neots take proxy purchasing so seriously that they have stationed a security guard in the car park on a Friday evening after school because they know that proxy purchasing can be a problem at that time."

"Shop staff have acted as our colleagues on the frontline and helped us to really bring home the impact of underage drinking to the youngsters.

"We are never going to be able to cure underage drinking completely but we believe with this scheme we can make a real difference."

Sergeant Rachel Gourlay, part of the St Neots and district neighbourhood policing team, added: "I believe this has been very successful because every time we go out now we all seek out kids with alcohol. It is completely embedded in the policing that we do on a daily basis."

Cambridgeshire Trading Standards says it has now built up a case study based on the experiences in St Neots that can be rolled out across Cambridgeshire and the UK.

The study has been passed to the Home Office and if given the seal of approval it will be used as a model of best practice.

The aim is to have 75 per cent of Cambridgeshire covered by CAP in three years. Funding has already been secured for CAP to be introduced in Cambridge and it has the backing of Tesco which is said to be keen to spread the project to more of its stores.

Mr Livermore added: "We hope that our work in St Neots will act as a blueprint for launching CAPs across Cambridgeshire and beyond."

Thanking The Hunts Post for its support, he added: "Cambridgeshire County Council would personally like to thank you for the support your publication has shown the Community Alcohol Partnership since its launch. If we are to tackle the problems caused by underage drinking and the public perceptions of such problems then the support of the local media is key.

"Together with our partners we have drafted a case study to help other authorities build similarly strong partnerships in there area."

Mark Hopkins, assistant chief constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, hailed CAP a success and said it would now be the norm for St Neots. He said: "This is the new way of doing business, it's the way forward and it's not going to change. This is about the long term health of the children."

INFORMATION: Have you seen a reduction in underage drinking in St Neots and do you put that down to the CAP pilot project? Send your views to: or write to: CAP debate, The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE29 3TB. To find out more about CAP, phone 01954 284635.

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