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Humberside PCC: drunk tanks could ease strain of alcohol policing
08 Aug 2013

Bringing in ‘drunk tanks’ could relieve the strain on the emergency services and allow officers to deal with other crime priorities, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Humberside has said.

In an interview with Police Professional, Matthew Grove said spending a night with a 999 response unit in Hull on July 31 stressed the need to take action on alcohol-related crime, as well as examine ways to improve other aspects to help constables and sergeants go about their daily work.

Mr Grove said he always comes back from his weekly days with different sections of the force with “a list of issues to pursue”, but claimed the night on a shift with the emergency response team had illustrated the wide-ranging effects on drinking crime and pledged to crack down on the issue. He suggested this could be achieved by looking into the introduction of drunk tanks to keep people safe while not impacting on custody provision and draining officers’ time.

“I think that could be a great way of releasing pressures on ambulance
services and policing,” he said.

“One day we’re probably going to have someone dying of a heart attack on the side of the road because we’re dealing with a drunk. Public services are a finite resource and we need to appreciate that.”

Mr Grove said he was looking to bring in conditional fines for drunken behaviour, similar to the Alcohol Diversion Scheme recently introduced by Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies, but would not introduce a late night levy, arguing the Business Improvement District programme in Hull was sufficient.

Alcohol and drug-related crime often overlaps with mental health issues and Mr Grove said his experiences had highlighted how much this impacts on policing, adding he will work with local authorities and health professionals in Humberside, as well as other PCCs, to improve service provision. However, he said offenders should not be seen as purely victims of circumstances and agencies needed to intervene before serious criminality occurred.

“We need to tighten up how we deal with mental health – it’s not right patients are dealt with in custody suites.

“I do understand that alcoholism is an illness, but it is an illness they’ve chosen in many ways – if we just wait for the alcoholics to become prolific offenders that’s not good.”

The late shift with the emergency response team also showed the need for PCCs to support the role of frontline officers as much as possible, Mr Grove said, with ways to make custody services more efficient another targeted area.

Mr Grove said he spent a lot of his time on shift waiting to book in offenders and suspects, time which he said was detracting from crime prevention and detection.

While he did not rule out an arrangement similar to the G4S ‘Street to Suite’ scheme in Lincolnshire, he said “it’s not at the top of my list” and raised concerns over the inflexibility of the contract, particularly as police forces may face further budget cuts. Though a “mixed economy” approach was advisable across policing in bringing private expertise to assist public sector units when needed, such as in e-crime, he warned against seeing outsourcing as “a magic bullet”.

Mr Grove praised the work of frontline officers during his shift, saying he “saw in real life how professional our officers are” and describing the service as “probably the greatest example of a vocation we have”. He claimed his one day a week with force staff was necessary to illustrate how knowing and experiencing policing priorities “are very different things”.

“I obviously knew that incident response officers are at the sharp end and have a flat-out day, but being on a whole shift was eye-opening. It was very hard to sleep afterwards as the adrenaline was still flowing,” he said.

“My job is to hold the chief constable to account and I can’t do that stuck in an office.”


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