Partnership aims to cut drink problems
POLICE chiefs are to work alongside the health service in a landmark partnership to slash crime and health problems caused by alcohol abuse.
Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, pictured below, will lead the dedicated task group as it draws up a strategy to tackle the soaring cost of crime, disorder and healthcare linked to excessive drinking.
Staffordshire Police is ploughing £100,000 into the county-wide partnership, which is set to be matched in full by the health service.
The move comes as Stoke-on-Trent City Council launches a review into falling trade and rising violent crime in Hanley.
Members are expected to press for nightclub opening times to be cut in a bid to reduce alcohol-related violence.
Chief Constable Mike Cunningham believes the move brings the police force and health service together in a way "never seen before".
He said: "This is a key priority for public services because it has a huge impact on the services we provide.
"In policing terms, alcohol is a significant contributory factor to violent crime and anti-social behaviour in our towns and city centres at night.
"It contributes to domestic violence and other offences such as rape and serious sexual assault.
"This funding shows our determination to solve the problem.
"The force is committed to tackling the significant problem of alcohol harm across the county."
County councillor Robert Marshall, cabinet member for public health and community safety, said "We shouldn't underestimate the impact alcohol misuse has, not only on the individuals themselves but also on the wellbeing and safety of their families – and the costs of healthcare in the wider community.
"This is a Staffordshire-wide problem that cuts across responsibilities and boundaries, so it's vital that all of us work together to turn the tide of alcohol misuse and the problems it causes in society.
"The cost of alcohol to the Staffordshire economy, both in crime and disorder costs and healthcare costs, is estimated to be millions of pounds each year, and rising.
"Our focus has to be on prevention by tackling the underlying issues much earlier on, so that entrenched drinking patterns don't become the norm."
The task group will report directly to the new Staffordshire Health and Wellbeing Board, set up by the county council as part of national changes to the way health services are scrutinised.
A similar arrangement will be agreed with Stoke-on-Trent City Council's new health board over the coming months.