Pre-loading booze habit gives police headache

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CRIME and disorder associated with drinking behind closed doors is creating a growing problem for city police.

The practice of pre-loading – where drinkers fill up on shop-bought alcohol before going to pubs or clubs – has been highlighted as a issue across the Capital for both landlords and police.

Inspector Dianne Bruce, who represents Police Scotland on the Capital’s licensing forum, said alcohol-related violence, including stabbings and ­glassings, was increasingly being committed out of sight, meaning police arrived on the scene too late to stop trouble.

She singled out areas including Wester Hailes, Pilton and Portobello as hot spots for behind-closed-doors violence, and added her voice to calls for a clampdown over the number of new alcohol licences granted in areas already full of shops.

The city’s licensing committee is facing calls to tackle the issue of “over-provision”, with health experts saying studies have shown in areas awash with alcohol people drink more, leading to poorer health and increases violence, child neglect and hospitalisations.

Insp Bruce said: “Pre-loading is an issue for us. In more deprived areas it’s private space violence. Drinking in private is really hard to control. What we are seeing is an increase in violence in private spaces, rather than public spaces.

“There are areas of the city that are over-provided for, both in on-sales and off-sales. What impact we can have is limited, but one of the tools to try and make a positive dent in alcohol harm is to reduce availability. It’s not just city centre hot spots, it’s outlying areas.”

In a report produced by the Edinburgh Alcohol and Drug Partnership areas with an above average number of bars and off-licences, such as Portobello, Tollcross, large parts of Leith and Dalry and Fountainbridge, also displayed above-average alcohol-related hospital admissions and crime.

Corstorphine and Stockbridge had above average on-sales and off-sales outlets but no noticeable spike in either.

Edinburgh’s licensing policy will be reviewed this month with a recommendation seven more areas are classed as “areas of over-provision”.

However, there are fears a move to tighten up the process would send out a message that the Capital is “closed for business”. Several areas that could become classed as areas of over-provision, including Dalry, Tollcross, Leith and Portobello, have also been identified by the council as priority areas in terms of high street development and regeneration.

Drinking affects everyone

WHILE problem drinking has been associated with areas of deprivation and in places with a high number of licensed premises, Inspector Dianne Bruce warned that the issue was not isolated.

She said that victims of rapes or sexual assaults were often “bright and well-educated women” at university who had drank shots “one after another”.

She said police would be then left to “retrace their steps”.

“It’s not just uneducated people getting drunk – it’s across the spectrum,” she said. “This isn’t limited to certain areas of Edinburgh or to certain types of people.”