You are here: Home / Media / Alcohol Free Zones – ‘ two sides to the coin’

Alcohol Free Zones – ‘ two sides to the coin’

Thank you, Central, for raising the very important debate on the topic of ‘Street drinking and Alcohol Free Zones’. I read with interest the divided views on their effectiveness and it appears there is valid argument in both camps writes Mike Shreenan in this letter to Central on 22 April 2009.

There is no doubt that the misuse of alcohol underpins a wide range of pressures on many local community services and causes misery for many residents both in social and private sector housing. I am personally in favour of any enforcement tools that can be used by the police to ensure that local people can enjoy their homes and public space without the fear of being harassed and intimidated by a rowdy group of drinkers.

However, the selecting of individual streets does create a sense of inequality and discrimination. Why is it ok for one street to be able drink outdoors but not another?

Some authorities in the U.K and other countries operate a council-wide ban, where drinking is prohibited in all open-air unlicensed public places near residential areas - this is a more equitable and sustainable position.  Until such times where there is political momentum and spine to make such a move, we have to settle for the current situation of targeted hotspot areas.

The difficulty with hotspots only AFZ’s is that they can go on to result in the criminalisation of an already highly vulnerable and marginalized groups, which thus deepens their social exclusion and adding fuel to an already very complex issue.  When you operate AFZ in selective streets you are only are band aiding - this leads to street drinkers re-locating to other areas and creating a whole new set of community challenges.

Increased effort and resources from all levels of Government is required into treating the cause of alcoholism and helping those with chaotic lifestyles.  Including: improving access to rehabilitation, social, health and housing support services, the establishment of managed ‘alcohol control zones’, and the trial of wet centres where ‘street drinkers’ can drink without causing a nuisance to others, and whilst having access to professional and peer support. These measures would go much further to addressing the problem than AFZ’s in isolation .

Of course there are those who would argue that a total AFZ in the city is letting the minority cause restrictions on the freedom of those who enjoy a drink but can act ‘responsibly’.

The reality is that if you are resident of any area that had constant groups drinking, causing noise, mess, and showing displays of aggression, fuelled by alcohol outside your home, 24/7, you would welcome the enforcement of an Alcohol Free Zone.

The problem of anti-social behaviour is one that is affecting most of the LGA communities. Any tools used are step in the right direction but much more is required. The city council should be proud of their achievements and forward thinking in this regard to date.

Mike Shreenan, Local resident and community worker, Waterloo.