Clubs and pubs should share the cost of dealing with drunks spilling onto late-night streets looking for trouble according to Cheshire's new chief constable, David Holmes meets Peter Fahy.
CHIEF Constable Peter Fahy believes bars which encourage people to 'throw beer down their necks' should help pay the costs of dealing with a town full of drunks.
Mr Fahy, who admits to enjoying a drink himself, says alcohol lies behind much of the violent crime we see on the streets of Chester every weekend.
He believes bars which prof it from drink should make a contribution towards policing and clearing up the mess left in the wake of drunken revellers.
Mr Fahy , who spent New Year's Eve working with dozens of bobbies in Warrington, said: 'It does go through your mind, ought not some of these outlets perhaps be paying a bit more for the problem they are causing or making money out of?'
He said the Government was considering finding a way of charging outlets as part of the reform of the licensing laws.
'I think some approaches have been made and there are possibly some opportunities in the reform programmes going through that there may be some means of getting local businesses involved in the alcohol industry to contribute towards the costs of policing and security.'
More and more bars appear to be opening in Chester prompting concern from the Chief Constable.
'You walk around some of these town centres at night and you are knee-deep in take-aways and vomit and all the rest of it.
'Unless these businesses are willing to pay for street cleansing and transport and that sort of infrastructure and come up with some better plan we will certainly be objecting if the only outcome is more and more drunken people turned out onto the street.'
The Chief Constable frowns on the British drinking culture with all the associated problems involving not just yobs but 'perfectly respectable people'.
'We seem to applaud and prize people getting drunk and behaving outrageously whereas in most of the rest of civilised world it's completely frowned upon.
'Popular culture still values that. You see lots of adverts on the television for alcohol which basically suggest that if you drink you'll be cocky, clever and you can have people over and essentially it's the macho thing to do.'
Talking about Chester, he said: 'The evidence I have seen is the perception is far worse than the reality.
'In a lot of town centres now at weekends and at nights they are essentially taken over by large groups of young people fuelled by alcohol and most of the premises are looking to make their prof it by the amount of alcohol they can serve.
'You often don't have more mature people, who shall we say, set a different standard of behaviour during the day.'
'It's no good opening more and more premises unless the infrastructure is there, unless there's some plan about how you're going to get people out at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.
'Again that's where a lot of confrontation happens from people trying to get taxis - arguments about who was first in the queue. You've got people hanging around bored because there's no prospect of them getting home.'
I want bobbies on the beat
CHIEF Constable Peter Fahy has solved the case of the 'missing bobbies'. Now he wants them back on your street.
Mr Fahy, who took up his post in December, says his off icers do exist but they can often be found in Panda cars spending their time responding to incidents.
He believes the Cheshire public is right to expect to see them out of their vehicles and pounding the beat even if this presents a challenge in terms of the 999 service.
'The cry for more local off icers is quite clear. I cannot have the arrogance to say 'Sorry we know best'.' said Mr Fahy, who lives in Northwich with his wife and four children.
'It's being out there on the street. It's knowing what's going on. It's being very good at picking up local intelligence.' Tax payers have long argued for bobbies to get back on the beat to regain control of the streets in the urban and rural areas.
The police's belated recognition that their paymasters may have been right all along represents a sea-change from just a few years back when senior off icers repeatedly told sceptical public forums old fashioned policing was ineffective.
Last year Cheshire got 40 extra front-line off icers and more will be funded in future but the increased numbers are spread thinly across the county.
Mr Fahy stressed the officers must be targeted to hot spot areas. And he emphasised the importance of working with other agencies, like local authorities, to have a lasting impact.
He also pointed out the down-side in terms of the effect on the police's ability to respond to incidents which the public already complain is inadequate.
'One of the hard decisions we had to make in Surrey was to reduce the number of officers in vehicles and rushing about in police cars and we decided we wanted to put more off icers out there as local beat officers
'The difficulty with that, clearly, is the public has almost got a consumerist attitude towards policing.
'They expect that if they ring up then someone is going to turn up immediately.
'And that really is the hard choice I've got to put to the police authority and the public of Cheshire. We can have more officers working the local beat, out there in the community, but to do that we will have to be more disciplined in the calls we respond to.'
Vital community responsibility
WHILE more front-line bobbies are forthcoming the police chief's message is that we all have a responsibility to make our communities safer.
'We have got to find ways of getting more people to be interested in their own area, to be caring about local facilities, to feel it's worthwhile reporting damage.'
Mr Fahy understands why some residents want to stay indoors and rely on the police to deal with situations but says this fuels a down-ward spiral.
'It's well known where the community is more active, where there are lots of different clubs and societies and various things going on, that people are likely to feel more secure and more safe than in an area where people feel they can't go out and do those things.
'All that just fuels. They feel more insecure, they phone us about it and they are reluctant to intervene.
'Our workload grows and we have more off icers in cars to try and service that need and it becomes a vicious circle.'
A signif icant amount of time is spent dealing with so called nuisance youths who contribute to the fear of crime.
'We have got to come up with something much more imaginative than just labelling all young people as the problem. They are the solution.
'We have got to find some way of getting them involved. It's only a very tiny minority of young people that cause problems.
'Certainly we have got to come up with a more imaginative solution than us just shifting them from one street corner to another and from one bus shelter to another.'
'We need to work with schools, the youth service and youth organisations that have got schemes out there in the community.'
Mr Fahy reckons anti-social behaviour takes up more than 30% of police resources and when alcohol, a major factor in late night violence, was introduced that figure could rise as high as 50%.
That means fewer resources to tackle serious criminals.
ARMED POLICE 'I think at the moment most off icers, given they are already having to have a protective vest, CS gas, a baton, First Aid kit, 101 different forms, would see the idea of having to carry a gun as well as another incumberance and another thing to be trained on. I've not picked up that as an issue at all from police off icers.
'Most of our off icers realise their best weapon is their mouth. Because often they are policing large areas with not huge amounts of back-up. They are very good at reasoning with people and talking their way out of situations.'
He stressed the level of f irearms incidents was low in Cheshire and last year not a single peron was killed by a f irearm compared with 70 people who died on the county's roads.
'Families of every one of those road accident victims grieved as much as the families of the poor girls in Birmingham.'
DRUG CULTURE 'I would not be in favour of legalisation but you have to say the current policy has failed.
'I think you have to accept there is a huge amount of drugs out there. We see crack coming into the county. Again, you have got to target the most problematic people. You have to be very good at identifying the problematic addicts out there who are committing huge amounts of crime to feed their habit.
'You have got to be very good at getting the treatment agencies and the other sanctions, the criminal justice system, behind that. These are very very complex issues. A lot of the solutions that are trotted out are hugely simplistic. Anyone who has had to deal with an addict or had a drug addict in their family - it's hugely diff icult.
'It often comes down to that individual, at some point in their life, wanting to do something about it.'
MAJOR CRIME 'I want to emphasise it's important for us to be very very effective against the major players. If a police force can't take out the major players why would you have us?
'I want to make sure Cheshire police is a serious occupational hazard for people out there committing crime.
'Thankfully we have not had the diff iculties other areas have had with gun crime. The level of f irearms incidents in Cheshire is very very low. We are going to be very vigiliant that it does not spread into our county.'
He said plain clothes off icers were out there gathering intelligence but were not seen by the public.
Technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated to check mobile phone and computer use and track the movements of crimimals.
CELEB STATUS 'I don't subscribe to the wholesale condemnation of rap and rap artists. We do need more of the sort of f igures that are important to young people to be coming out with strong statements about crime and violence and drugs.
'Let's face it most young people are more likely to be listen to Ms Dynamite and people like that than they are to the Chief Constable or Tony Blair.
'She has given some fairly strong messages about drugs and violence.'