The very first CAP scheme was piloted in St Neots, Cambridgeshire in 2007. It was a resounding success, with a 45% drop in ASB in some of the main hot spot areas and no displacement to surrounding areas. There was also a cultural change in the way partners worked together.
St Neots is a typical, English market town. Situated to the West of Cambridgeshire on the Bedfordshire border, it lies on the banks of the river Great Ouse. St Neots has a number of parks and recreation grounds. The Riverside Park has a car-park, café, skateboard park and children’s play area where young people like to gather. There are 20 different off-licence premises in the town ranging from a national superstore on the outskirts, down to several small independent retailers.
There was a perception amongst the Community, Police and Local Authorities that there was a problem with anti-social behaviour and youth related disorder – much of which could be associated with underage alcohol consumption. Adding to this the negative effects on the health of young people participating in underage drinking, it was clear that something needed to be done.
The CAP was launched on 11 September 2007 with the following objectives:
• Reducing harm to society and victims (including young drinkers)
• Delivering cultural change within Cambridgeshire
• Challenging and changing public perceptions
St Neots CAP was led by Cambridgeshire County Council Trading Standards but involved all of the town’s off-licence retailers, the Police, local authorities, local secondary schools and youth clubs, Drinksense, the community and the local press (Hunts Post and St Neots Town Crier).
CAP took three main approaches to tackle the issue of underage drinking in St Neots:
Police and Trading Standards provided education to all year groups at St Neots Community College and Longsands College about the law relating to young people and alcohol and the penalties for committing crime. These sessions were run in assemblies or Every Child Matters lessons. The students were made aware of the CAP enforcement activities (see below). Informal drop-in sessions at the local Youth Club took place.
Drinksense (a locally based charity) facilitated an alcohol awareness workshop at Longsands College. The session was run for parents of pupils at both Longsands and St Neots Community College, with both schools sending out a mailshot invitation to parents of their pupils.
Leaflets produced in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council, RASG, Police and Drinksense for retailers to give to every purchaser of alcohol (explaining the harm of and law relating to underage alcohol consumption and proxy purchasing)
Police and Cambridgeshire County Council undertook regular patrols of hotspot areas, confiscating alcohol from under 18s.
Retailers provided with telephone numbers of Trading Standards and Police staff at times of enforcement operations to immediately report alleged offenders
Trading Standards working with store managers and positioning themselves in retail outlets to advise any alleged offenders (young people or proxy purchasers) of the reason their purchase was refused.
The Hunts Post and the St Neots Town Crier were provided with regular CAP news stories that built community confidence and helped alter public perception of underage drinking in St Neots.
For further details, a full evaluation report is available.
Working with CAP has helped partners to engage with the licensing trade to greatly reduce the sale of alcohol to young people.