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Please keep reporting street drinkers... but not via social media

Concerned Boston residents are being urged to continue reporting street drinkers to the police and not assume that posting photographs on social media will lead to action.

Pictures taken in the town of some apparently under the influence of alcohol, including one of a man who appeared to be unconscious, have been posted on social media, but this is not an appropriate reporting mechanism.

Some historic pictures have been posted onto social media - the same picture as many as eight times.

Using the phone number 101, or going to the police station in person, are the correct methods for reporting such instances. In the case of anyone appearing to be unconscious an immediate 999 call for help should be made.

Boston Community Insp Andy Morrice said: "Never make an assumption that someone who is unconscious and laying down in the open is under the influence of drink. They could have hit their head and seriously injured themselves. They may have been laying out in the open all night and have hypothermia. Their life may be at risk. It is not appropriate and does not demonstrate community responsibility to take a photo of someone clearly in need of help and post it on social media."

He said  EVERY time a 101 call has been made the police have attended, NO exceptions.

Boston Borough Council and Boston Police firmly believe that street drinking in the town is now much less visible since the Public Space Protection Order came into force on January 11, 2015. Since being the first council in the country to introduce a PSPO for consumption of alcohol, a range of actions have been taken against those who drink in the town. The council was also the first in the country to secure a successful prosecution against a habitual street drinker for breaching a Community Protection Notice.  All this is driven by the feedback the community gives.

But the Government PSPO legislation is not a drinks ban. Consuming alcohol in Boston's PSPO area is only an offence if a person fails to desist from consuming alcohol, or to surrender the alcohol when instructed to do so by a police officer. To date, 480 separate actions have been taken against those caught consuming alcohol within the PSPO area; these actions range from warning letters to formal prosecution.  Not one of these 480 has refused to surrender the alcohol. No one is failing to comply with the PSPO legislation.

Lincolnshire Police have recently been issued with Fixed Penalty Fine tickets so that they can issue on-the-spot fines to anyone they come across who refuses their request to stop drinking or leave the PSPO area. Where some repeatedly drink in the street, anti-social behaviour legislation can be used leading to a prosecution. To date only one person has repeatedly ignored the warnings, and therefore been prosecuted.

Insp Morrice said: "We are not naive enough to say this problem has been solved. Daily patrols are completed to known areas, police attend EVERY report of street drinking. We have only recently been told about a problem area near the Stump. We are having hedges removed, and replaced by flower beds, so there is no screen to hide behind, and are having a tree pruned back for the same reason. We have had cameras installed at previous hot spots, we have put adverts out in the local papers, and recently we have also done this in foreign languages."

Not everyone reported drinking from a can is drinking alcohol. Often it is a soft drink (energy drinks are very popular), but the cans do look very similar to cans of alcoholic drinks.

Insp Morrice said: "Everything and anything is up for discussion with any comments or suggestions always welcome, particularly comments about how we could be more proactive and what the outcomes of such pro-action could be.  But existing laws and powers have to be borne in mind. Beyond the enforcement powers we are utilising, we are supporting Lincolnshire Police to explore a Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP) to help bring businesses, schools, volunteers, community members and other agencies around the table to discuss all matters related to underage drinking and street drinking."

Addressing street drinking is a priority of both Boston Borough Council and the East Lincolnshire Community Safety Partnership; within Boston, tackling street drinking was the number one priority returned from the 2015 Community Safety Survey .

Face to face enforcement of the PSPO is undertaken by Lincolnshire Police; no one can be unaware of the financial challenges faced by public services. Where Police resources are available there will be a Police response; however, sometimes Police resources are required elsewhere at the same time, and dealing with incidents such as serious road traffic accidents or crime must take priority.

Boston Borough Council and Boston Police encourage everyone to report every incident they see through appropriate channels.