Police wage battle of the bottle in Wisbech

Cans left in New Bell Lane, Wisbech by drinkers.
Cans left in New Bell Lane, Wisbech by drinkers.

Deportation, on the spot fines and confiscation of alcohol are all weapons in the police’s artillery in the fight against street drinking in Wisbech.

But despite these measures and a concerted effort by officers to crackdown, the problem still persists and Sgt Dave Bax of the Fenland Police Anti-Social Behaviour and Licensing Team admits trying to stamp out street drinking is a bit like ‘painting the fourth bridge’.

“We are never going to solve it, it is never going to be stopped completely, but there is action that can be taken to help the situation,” said Sgt Bax.

He blames the high number of off-licences and pubs in the town centre - there are 24 off-licences and 14 pubs within the DPPO (Designated Public Place Order) area - for the problem as people have easy access to alcohol and the issue is made worse by the fact that many outlets sell chilled individual cans of lager and bottles of excessively strong cider at cheap prices.

The DPPO allows the confiscation of alcohol, which is why the sale of individual cans is so popular with street drinkers and why bottles of strong cider like Frosty Jacks and Icy White, which sell at just over a £2 bottle and is almost eight per cent proof are also favourites.

“If we can stop the sale of that kind of alcohol, it will help. And I would also like off-licences to stop selling chilled lager. At the moment the single cans are lined-up in fridges, just appealing to street drinkers,” said Sgt Dave Bax.

He believes there is a hardcore of around 15 drinkers who are responsible for much of the on-street drinking and off-licences have been made aware of who these people are.

He believes the DPPO has helped, but admits it is responsible for drinkers now congregating in alleyways and other public areas hidden away from the CCTV cameras.

In the past year police have dealt with 100 reports of street drinking, 393 rowdy incidents linked to alcohol and have made 64 arrests for that kind of behaviour, they have ordered 54 groups/people to leave the DPPO area, have issued 19 fixed penalty fines of £50 and have confiscated 183 items of alcohol.

Several people have also been sent home via the UK Border Agency for failing to live according to their European Treaty Rights but as Sgt Bax points out there is nothing stopping those people from returning on the next plane to England.

Licensee Zagros Abdullah runs Wisbech Off-Licence, which is currently having its licence reviewed because Sgt Bax and his team have identified it as a possible source of alcohol for street drinkers.

He said following the police’s action he has stopped selling individual cans of lager but he said his action will not stop the problem.

“People put their money together and one of them comes in and buys a pack of lager and then gives a can to their friends,” said Mr Adbullah, who would like a meeting of all off-licensees to discuss ways they can work together to help police.

“It is no good me saying I won’t sell Frosty Jacks or White Icy because my customers will just go to the next shop and I will lose business. But if we all make an agreement then it will be fair for everyone,” said Mr Abdullah.