Kent Community Alcohol Partnership to offer help to traders across the county

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Pilot schemes to help shopkeepers cope with gangs of underage children demanding alcohol have been so successful they are being dramatically extended.

Areas with high degrees of alcoholism among teenagers were targeted by Trading Standards and police.

But they did not go in with all guns blazing taking licences away – the visits were to help traders understand the law, and to also learn how to deal with widespread intimidation.

It is called the Kent Community Alcohol Partnership and also takes in anti-social behaviour.

Now, following astonishing results in Edenbridge, Canterbury and Thanet, other areas across Kent are being encouraged to get involved.

A new toolkit is also being introduced for traders to use in their own fight against local problems.

KCAP is lead by Kent County Council’s Trading Standards working with the Kent Drug and Alcohol Action Team, Kent Police, the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group, alcohol retailers, district and borough councils and the health authorities.

A spokesman said: “It can be very intimidating for someone working in a newsagent to be confronted by the large group of youths demanding to be sold alcohol.

“Our teams will go to the shops and help the staff understand what they can do, and what they can’t. It’s a better system than simply prosecuting them time and again and then taking away licences. That doesn’t address the underlying problem of the area.

“We also have talks with young people to help them better understand how their behaviour affects others.”

An independent evaluation by the University of Kent found a 28 per cent overall drop in criminal damage in the pilot areas. There was also a reduction in reports of people being drunk or rowdy in public places.

Since the pilots were launched, the scheme has been extended to Herne Bay and Whitstable, Cliftonville West and Margate Central, Maidstone High Street and Swanley.

Councillor Mike Hill, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Customer and Communities, said: “KCAP has now been running successfully for three years and has made a real difference to tackling alcohol-related problems in communities. The KCAP toolkit, aimed at community groups outlines how they can set up and promote their own KCAP area with the full support of all the partner agencies.”

And Chief Constable of Kent Police Ian Learmonth added: “A great deal of activity has taken place since that launch which has seen KCAP grow into the largest Community Alcohol Partnership in the country. I am very proud of the work that all partners have carried out to make this such a successful initiative.

“Kent is experiencing continued reductions in crime and disorder across the county. We know our communities tell us that excessive drinking is of concern to them. We have listened and we have put exceptional effort into the Kent Community Alcohol Partnership in response to those concerns.”

The alcohol industry is also involved, and Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame Brewery, said: “The best way to tackle alcohol related disorder is through local partnership between industry and all relevant authorities to deliver targeted enforcement and education initiatives. KCAP is a shining example of this approach.”

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