Aug 31 2012 by ContentWatchImporter, Dumfries Standard Friday
A POLICE plan to tackle antisocial behaviour on the Whitesands in Dumfries could see the creation of a designated zone for public boozing.
The area has long been blighted by drug users and binge drinkers.
And the controversial plan is seen as a possible solution to the problem.
The idea comes as the region’s force gathers the results of a Facebook survey asking residents for their suggestions on the best way to deal with the issue.
And they have sent out a clear message to other organisations and the people of Dumfries – the police need support.
Inspector Rory Caldow said: “We would like to find an alternative area where they can drink without fear of prosecution and out of the public view – whether that’s a building or a facility.
“Services could be there to make sure that the underlying health issues are addressed. And we need community support – we can’t do this on our own.”
He added: “It’s not an easy one to solve and is not just a police issue, it’s a societal problem about alcohol.”
“The Whitesands is a lovely area but not with some of the behaviour.
“The buses come into the Whitesands, the tourists get off the buses and then they see this. It’s not a good image so we need to try – with the help of other agencies – to get the antisocial behaviour issue tackled.”
Inspector Caldow exclusively revealed the idea to the Standard following an “unbelievable” response to the Facebook survey which has seen more than 650 people reply so far.
He said that police are trying to engage with partner agencies to identify a possible area for people to drink.
He added: “One of the questions on the survey is ‘whose responsibility do you think it is to tackle this?’ In the results so far, the police tops the list. But the council and the NHS also feature in the responses so we can use that as evidence to go to these other agencies and ask how they can help us.”
He pointed out that the police don’t have as much power as the public may think.
The inspector said: “We can’t arrest people for drinking in public as it’s not an arrestable offence – we can charge them and pour out their drink but they are still there. They have to be committing a breach of the peace.
“To prove that, we need members of the public coming forward to say that they are offended by the conduct.”
Police hope that the evidence from the survey could enable them to prove the need for the safe zone – and seek to beef-up powers to give out antisocial behaviour orders.
Inspector Caldow added: “This is the longer term, for next year.
“We would like to spend the next few months trying to get the other agencies to buy in because it can’t just be about enforcement, it has to be about the underlying health issues.
“We need to address the root problem rather than attack the offending because they are going to continue to drink.”
Dumfries MSP Elaine Murray said: “While I am in complete agreement with looking at ways to tackle issues surrounding the binge drinking culture, and the antisocial behaviour that can come through excess drinking, these proposals must be well thought through and go through the appropriate scrutiny.”