In 2014, the City of London launched the United Kingdom’s first compulsory “alcohol tag” trial in an attempt to curb alcohol-involved crime in four of the city’s most impacted neighborhoods. Based on the success of that initial trial, last week the Mayor of London and the Ministry of Justice announced that the alcohol tagging pilot will be implemented throughout the capital starting in April.
Alcohol-related crime costs British taxpayers upwards of £13 billion ($18 billion) each year. While drink driving is an issue in the U.K., alcohol-involved violence and problems from London’s nighttime economy—such as property damage and public drunkenness—are of even greater concern.
The Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirement (AAMR) requires offenders to refrain from drinking for up to 120 days and to wear a Continuous Alcohol Monitoring bracelet. A study of the first year of the program showed that 92% of the offenders were fully compliant and remained sober during the entire time of their monitoring. And of those offenders who violated their sobriety orders, nearly half went on to successfully complete the program with some additional intervention by the court. Overall, the study found that compliance with the AAMR was higher than other types of court orders.
Just as important, people involved in the trial felt that the monitored abstinence was helpful in giving offenders a “pause” from drinking, time to reflect on the impact of drinking on the offending behavior, relationships, and work, and an opportunity to break the cycle of routine drinking.
London officials have welcomed the AAMR as another tool in the box of community sentences, offering a new, tailorable response to alcohol crimes and sentencing. Mayor of London Boris Johnson said, “From assault, to drink-driving, to theft and criminal damage, this innovative technology is driving down re-offending and proving rehabilitation does not have to mean prison. After such a success in South London, it’s time to roll out these tags to the rest of the capital and rid our streets of these crimes, by helping even more offenders stay off the booze and get back on the right track.”