Wet centre could combat street drinking

POLICE are today looking at the feasibility of setting up a 'wet centre' in Ipswich to combat street drinking in the town.It is one of a range of measures officers have come up with to tackle the issue of alcoholics gathering in public thoroughfares and parks.

POLICE are today looking at the feasibility of setting up a 'wet centre' in Ipswich to combat street drinking in the town.

It is one of a range of measures officers have come up with to tackle the issue of alcoholics gathering in public thoroughfares and parks.

The first wet centre was opened in Dundee in 1978. Thirteen years later Nottingham was the first place in England to get one and others are now in use in London, Brighton, Oxford, Leicester and Manchester.

Pc John Alcock, Ipswich's street drinking liaison officer, said there are a regular group of about 40 drinkers in Ipswich, although in the warmer weather that number can increase to more than 70.

A Designated Public Place Order is now in force in the town after complaints from shoppers, business owners and residents, uncomfortable with the presence of habitual drinkers.

A wet centre is seen as a way to overcome the concerns and help those with problems at the same time as agencies connected with substance misuse would be at the centre to help people. There would also be a limit on the amount of alcohol they can drink.

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Pc Alcock said: “We are looking at the possibility of a long-term solution. It would be open between 9am and 4pm Monday to Saturday for long-term entrenched street drinkers.

“It's not an open-door policy. They have to be recognised by drug and alcohol agencies.

“There is a feeling what we are doing is supporting their lifestyle, but what we are doing is managing it. All of these people have a very chaotic lifestyle due to substance misuse. You are managing that lifestyle and bringing structure to it.”

Pc Alcock has been to Leicester to see how its wet centre works and said the area's primary care trust figures estimate it saves an average of �250,000 a year in hospital admissions and related costs.

The concept for Ipswich is only in its assessment stage at present, but a report from Pc Alcock on the feasibility of a wet centre will go before senior officers later this summer.