Blitz on young drinkers

A campaign is launched today (Wednesday) calling time on underage drinkers in St Neots. The town is set to be a test bed for a new community-based campaign which, if successful, could be extended across the country. Over the next six weeks, the police wil

A campaign is launched today (Wednesday) calling time on underage drinkers in St Neots.

The town is set to be a test bed for a new community-based campaign which, if successful, could be extended across the country.

Over the next six weeks, the police will be working with Trading Standards, health organisations, youth groups and retailers to combat the issue.

While the problem is not isolated to St Neots - national research suggests about a third of youngsters binge drink - the organisations behind the campaign, called Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP), believe the scheme could help make a difference in the town.

On Friday and Saturday nights teenagers can be spotted at various locations around the town (see 'Out on the Town' report on Page 13), gathering to drink, and creating an atmosphere which has been described as intimidating and anti-social.

CAP hopes to put an end to that by working with the community to cut off the supply of alcohol to the children who choose to drink.

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Cambridgeshire county councillor Victor Lucas, cabinet member for Trading Standards, said: "Underage drinking is a concern across the UK and although Cambridgeshire has already been highly successful in reducing the supply of alcohol to youngsters it is a problem in the county.

"Cambridgeshire will now lead the UK in a new project which, for the first time, draws in all agencies and the community to tackle underage drinking from all angles.

"St Neots will be at the forefront of this new Community Alcohol Partnership campaign.

"This is because we know St Neots has such a strong community spirit and will be able to lead the way for the rest of Cambridgeshire and the country."

The campaign will depend on community involvement. The people of St Neots, Eatons and surrounding areas, as well as schools and parents, are being asked to help by providing information about drinking hotspots, and by refusing to buy alcohol for children.

While Trading Standards tests show only a handful of retailers have sold alcohol to under 18s, drink is still finding its way into the hands of children, increasing their health risks and, in certain circumstances, levels of criminal damage, leaving communities to foot the bill.

The campaign will include education work as well as intelligence gathering.

The Retail Alcohol Standards Group, which represents major chain stores, has pledged its support.

Chairman Nick Grant: "We believe it is vital to focus resources now on tackling underage offenders and adults buying on behalf of those under 18.

"Our stores are in the front line of enforcement and we believe the strong relations the scheme will build by bringing together different retailers, community groups and Trading Standards will be invaluable in targeting underage drinking and proxy sales.

"These problems are best targeted by working together as a community and sharing expertise, so we hope this groundbreaking scheme will serve as an inspiration in other parts of the country.

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