Recently, the three North East Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) called on the government to focus on the wider implications of alcohol use and the demands it places on emergency services.
North East PCCs Call for Action on Alcohol
Earlier this month, Dame Vera Baird (Northumbria), Barry Coppinger (Cleveland), and Ron Hogg (Durham) wrote a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP urging the government to recognise that the impact of alcohol on society extends well beyond the harm it causes individuals, including increased levels of crime, pressures on emergency services and social services, and significant costs to the public purse.
According to Public Health England, alcohol-related crime costs the economy £52 billion a year. Balance North East, a local alcohol awareness organisation, estimates that alcohol harm cost the region £1.01 billion in 2015-2016, with alcohol-related hospital admissions costing over £100 million per year.
Problematic drinking is not unique to the North East and remains high across England and Wales. In 2015-2016 there were approximately 339,000 hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption, a 22% increase over the previous ten years.
Reducing Problematic Drinking with Continuous Alcohol Monitoring
More than one in four adults in the North East drink at levels that put them at risk and 40% of crime is linked to alcohol use. “There is a real responsibility on government to take measures to reduce alcohol consumption because doing so will make a real difference to the level of crime in our society and to the well-being of everyone,” stated Northumbria PCC Dame Vera Baird.
It is well documented that violence is increasing across the UK, with a 23% rise in knife crime across England and Wales from 2010 to 2016, and a 33% increase in the North East. With high levels of public concern about crime fueled by alcohol, the time for reforms seems appropriate. The government now acknowledges the need for a “whole system approach” to address violence. What role will alcohol monitoring play in this change?
With PCCs having the power to champion reforms in their areas, it may be that the North East PCCs take the lead and initiative to introduce justice reforms in response to local challenges with alcohol and violent crime. Ron Hogg, Durham PCC, has already adopted such a stance in the initiation of a SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring Pilot with the use of sobriety tags.