WARRINGTON’S town centre champion Cllr Mike Hannon has accused Cheshire police of discrediting the town and undoing years of hard work to improve it’s image, following an alcohol related publicity campaign branded “Totally Wasted!”
As a result of inviting the media into the town centre last Friday night, which police themselves admitted was a “quiet night” with just two arrests, various shameful images displaying drunken youngsters brawling, and a young girl lifting her skirt and showing her backside, were used showing Warrington in a poor light.
Cllr Hannon, (pictured left) who has put his heart and soul into trying to improve the image of the town centre, has been left feeling angry and outraged by the Cheshire wide campaign, which he believes was deliberately used to help “discredit” Warrington – where police are bidding to get licensing hours reduced to 2am.
The deputy leader of the council, who holds the portfolio for the town centre, said: “This whole thing was stage managed and people in the town were encouraged to show off to the camera.
“I am totally disappointed in how this was handled particularly by the Police. Warrington was used as a gimmick and totally exploited. We are no different than any town or city in the country.
“Myself and others are doing our best to build up Warrington’s economic profile and boost our town’s image.
“Single handed the police have attempted to destroy this hard work.”
Cllr Hannon said he believed Warrington had been targeted because of police attempts to reduce the licensing hours in the town centre.
“It doesn’t matter what licensing hours you have – the images in Warrington town centre could be replicated up and down the country at any time any weekend.
“Any one considering moving to Warrington to live or to work could be put off by what they may have seen in the national press.
“I am due to go a Bishop’s lunch in the town centre to help promote the town centre economy – on the back of all this negative publicity this is going to be highly embarrassing.
“I am very proud of Warrington and all the hard work going on in the town centre – and now all this hard work has been undone.
“The issues could have been tackled in a much more positive way with some proper partnership working.”
Cheshire Police denied they had targeted Warrington and said the campaign was to tackle increasing drink-related crime with stretched resources.
Nicknamed ‘Totally Wasted’, the campaign is an attempt to educate people about the impact drinking and alcohol-related crime has on the police force.
A spokes person for Cheshire Police said: “Last week, the National Association of Chief Police Officers campaign to focus on alcohol related harm began with the aim of raising public awareness of the issues caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol throughout the UK and the consequence this has to public sector agencies. This national initiative has been promoted to the media and as a consequence journalists from various outlets have been in contact and made arrangements to accompany officers on patrol in a number of town centres including Nantwich, Crewe, Northwich and Warrington. In addition, this weekend, regional television will be out in Chester.
“The issues highlighted on the streets of Warrington are not uncommon with those in many towns and cities across the UK during weekend evenings. The consequences of excessive binge drinking are well recognised and create significant demands on the police, health and Local Authorities. Cheshire Police are working with all of our partners and the licensing trade to seek sustainable ways forward to tackle this issue across the county.”
Meanwhile in an open letter to the people of Cheshire, Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer (pictured right) has outlined the problems being faced by the police.
Research showed that in the North West more than £947 million was spent in 2010/11 handling an estimated 47,000 alcohol related crimes, 34,183 alcohol related violent crimes and 863 alcohol related sexual offences.
“Of the incidents our Officers attended over the last 70 days, they recorded that; 40% of antisocial behaviour, 11% of crime and 20% of reports for someone?s safety had alcohol as a factor.
“Local Alcohol Profiles for England 2011/12 show that in Cheshire over 5,500 crimes could be attributed to alcohol (based on the calculation from the Government Strategy Unit).
“As the elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire it is incumbent on me to draw to your attention how much of your policing resources are being ‘Totally Wasted’ by officers having to respond to incidents where alcohol is a cause.
“This weekend alone in one of our towns we had 9 arrests, issued 18 notices directing people to leave the area to prevent disorder and recorded 34 other incidents that were alcohol related, all requiring a police response.
“There have been many changes to licensing laws to try to address the issues and change society?s attitude to alcohol. Changes to the licensing laws in 2005 enabled many towns to relax opening times, allowing bars to continue serving late into the early hours of the morning. This was intended to promote a continental culture and prevent the traditional last orders flashpoints, but in areas has bred competition, causing them to open later and later. It is not uncommon for them to still be trading after 5am.
“The culture and impact, especially amongst drinkers of ‘preloading?, drinking copious amounts of cheap alcohol at home before their night out, has increased and is now the norm. Bars compete to increasingly have cheaper and cheaper drinks promotions – inviting people to come out earlier, stay out longer and consume more alcohol. ‘Fresher?s Week? is a focus for new custom. The result is more drunkenness, disorder and violence in our towns. The demand is seen across public services not only by the police but also in our hospitals, ambulance service, fire service and local authorities, all of whom are left to deal with the consequences of alcohol abuse.
“How responsible is it to encourage people to pay a £5 entry fee give 5 drinks for 5 pence or 9 drinks for £9.95 or ‘Dice Nights? where you roll a dice, throw an odd number and get the round for free?
“You may have seen the coverage this week in the press and on our Twitter account to coincide with ‘Fresher Week? to help people keep safe. The pictures show people totally wasted in our towns this weekend – vulnerable to causing and being victims of crime.
“This is sadly a picture replicated across the country. The TOTALLY WASTED campaign is not to highlight specific areas, but to put a spotlight on the impact of alcohol and to change the attitude we have, that this type of behaviour is acceptable and stop it being seen as ‘a good night out,” he added.
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