Those of you who read the Ipswich Star will know that Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk NHS, Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council are backing a campaign launched by the police to voluntarily agree to stop the sale of “super strength” products from their shops. The aim of this campaign is designed to stop the sale of “super-strength” beers and cider to “vulnerable” people. Quoting from comments made to the Ipswich Star we hear that:
“We know the damage it can cause, one can of super strength lager can contain the entire recommended daily intake of alcohol.
“The effect it can therefore have on individuals who drink it and on the communities where it is sold and where it is consumed, can be quite significant.”
It is easy to think that these comments are justifiable and that by asking off licences and other retailers to stop selling strong beers and cider will somehow solve the problems of alcohol dependancy amongst those labelled “street drinkers” or those who have no home and that the ‘problem’ will go away. Unfortunately this voluntary form of limited prohibition is heavily flawed and shows, in my opinion, quite a large amount of naivete to the complicated issues that has lead them to find themselves in this situation. Prohibition, voluntary or not does not work. I can understand why the police want retailers to stop selling strong cans of beer, I’m sure their limited resources are often used up by problems with the side effects of this drug. The police use a massive amount of resources on a Friday and Saturday night for example, dealing with people who probably hold down a job, live a comfortable life, but like to let their hair down and get very drunk at the weekend. I often walk around town on a Saturday night to see what’s happening, it can be messy and I’ve heard so many times about how some people don’t like to walk in our fine town in the evening on weekends as they feel threatened. This is not just an issue here, but across the UK. I’m not a betting man, but I reckon the costs of policing binge drinking at a weekend costs far more than dealing with a relatively small “street drinking” community, who, already down on their luck are further victimised by authorities.
Have you ever been homeless? Do you know what it’s like to have no home? Have you ever been sexually abused? Have you ever seen your life fall apart around you? Do you suffer with mental health issues? Have you ever served your country and found it really difficult to adapt to civilian life? These are just some of the issues that have meant some are in the situation they are in? It’s easy for me to say that these people; fellow human beings, deserve compassion and caring, an ideology I strongly believe in, but I know that some people are very challenging, if not down right difficult and don’t want help. Why, probably because they have either adapted well to their new ‘arrangement’ and don’t like change, or don’t like the police because they take their alcohol away from them and move them on. I’ve experienced many of the things mentioned and feel so lucky to have what I do. I was lucky; some aren’t. The emotional pain affects us all in different ways. “Pull yourself together” and other stupid comments are useless. I’ve often heard comments from people about how they’ve been through tough times and didn’t end up on the streets etc. Lucky you!
I attended the Central Area Committee meeting earlier in the week, where a councillor proposed the removal of benches from St Matthew’s street near some shops. He cited an example where he was verbally abused by some people sitting on the offending benches. Like this “Reducing the Strength” campaign, it was a naive proposal (though passed) in thinking that this will stop the issue. I was very dissapointed by Cllr Jones, who wasn’t worried about where these people would go to, but as long as they weren’t outside the cafe. I cried inside when I heard that.
I have so much more to say about this issue, I hope some will comment and discuss this further, but what I will say is this “Reducing the Strength” campaign is pointless. Attempting to sweep the issue under the carpet doesn’t help people, what is effectively about aesthetics and making our town ‘look better’ by pretending it’s not a problem and saving the police a few quid doesn’t help these troubled souls who are looked down upon by too many people.
Remember, we are ALL only a few steps away from being those that many shun in disgust. It could be you one day.