The ideas of Welfare Centres, or “Drunk Tanks,”are currently being investigated across Brighton and Hove with new measurements to ensure the safety of the public.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has thought of an idea to save the taxpayer’s money from being spent carelessly, and to allow the police to patrol town centres without having to constantly care for intoxicated people. Nearly 50% of all violent crime is alcohol related, and the concept was created in order to allow people who have been drinking and are unable to look after themselves, a place to stay the night and sober up; but with a heavy fine.
The privately run centres will be funded by the fines given to an individual after residing for a night in ‘The Tank,’ which could be up to as much as £400. This extortionate price (according to the public) is the same amount of money as it would be for the taxpayer to pay for an intoxicated person to stay in a police cell, as well as the more than the amount it would cost to stay for a night at The Ritz.
The scheme, which started in the US and is linked both physically and systematically with the addiction services, has been backed by PM David Cameron. Cameron said that “Every night, in town centres, hospitals and police stations across the country, people have to cope with the consequences of alcohol abuse. And the problem is getting worse. Over the last decade we’ve seen a frightening growth in the number of people – many of them under age – who think that it’s acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread fear and increase crime. This is one of the scandals in our society and I am determined to deal with it.”
The Prime Minister has visited a hospital in the North East to consider the ever-growing issues that alcohol causes, with the doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers in the area. The minimum price of alcohol is said to be increasing by potentially inflating the duties on alcoholic drinks, and is a new proposal to be published by the Government. It is predicted that if the price of alcohol is increased to 30p per unit, it could save around 300 deaths a year.
Hospitals are constantly clogged up by people with severe injuries whilst being intoxicated. Alcohol misuse costs the NHS around £2.7 billion a year, with £645.7 million of that being spent on accident and emergency visits. There has also been a 40% rise in the past decade in the number of hospital admissions which are alcohol related, with 200,000 deaths last year.
I interviewed some customers at a local pub and asked them for their thoughts on the plans for the new scheme. The end result was quite
balanced, with some in favour of the Drunk Tanks and some opposed. Frequent questions that arose were: what would happen if you couldn’t pay the fine? What is the capacity of a single ‘Tank’? With all the drunks in the same space, would it create fights and disruption? And, who would pay to set it all up initially? One customer, Caroline Campbell, brought up the topic of both civil and human rights, and asked, “Would it be fair to hold someone against their will, when all they want to do is go home?” Overall, the resulting feedback, after a bit of a debate, was more positive than negative, thinking that it would be a good idea.
Already operating in California, it is ‘helping the police immensely’ and taking the strain off the force. But would it work in the UK, and act as a deterrent for weekend binge drinkers?