On the return to university, many of us were met with new posters brandishing every telegraph pole in Lenton, threatening a £70 fine for drinking in the streets. Authorised officers are now permitted to confiscate alcohol from anyone within the designated area: failure to surrender your drink and you’re fined; failure to pay, and you’re facing a courtroom with an increased penalty of £500.
But is this all really necessary?
“Drinking, partying and clubbing are all – whether we like it or not – a huge part of student life”
The prevalence of students in Lenton is undeniable, diminishing any other demographic of inhabitants. We’ve all recently received threatening letters through the post proclaiming our risk of eviction should an unacceptable number of noise complaints be made. House parties are commonplace. Trails of students heading out on a Wednesday and Friday are constant. Sainsbury’s has milked us dry in alcohol purchases. Drinking, partying and clubbing are all – whether we like it or not – a huge part of student life. And for the vast majority of us, we go about these activities with excitement and exuberance, not with the intention of being deliberately disruptive or inconsiderate.
“Clarification is needed to establish what constitutes anti-social antics and what is passable as inoffensive fun”
Yet Nottingham City Council state that street drinking is often accompanied by anti-social behaviour, encompassing all manner of things from vomiting and littering to singing and shouting. It’s for these reasons, it is claimed, that such tight measures are being imposed. But when do harmless shenanigans become criminal anti-social behaviour? The Council explicitly state that ‘it is not appropriate to challenge an individual consuming alcohol where that individual is not causing a problem’, but already stories are emerging of Community Protection Officers pouring away the bottle contents from an innocent bystander. Clarification is needed to establish what constitutes anti-social antics and what is passable as inoffensive fun.
On the other hand, when faced with concerns over day drinking in children’s play areas or smashed glass bottles covering local parks, it is understandable why the Council has imagined and implemented these measures.
Safety is, blatantly, a priority, and if the safety of residents is being compromised then action is necessary. But, that begs the question over whether these bans and fines are solely targeted at students, as many assume. The Council directly mention the issues raised by most problematic street-drinkers who have an alcohol dependency and are already known to the authorities, so perhaps instead of spending money on scare-mongering students with banners, it should be spent on investing in public health services and making support services available to the city’s most vulnerable.
The banners are hyperbolic: it is not a crime to drink in the streets, but it is punishable to exhibit anti-social behaviour in the streets whilst under the influence of alcohol. So there’s no need to hide that bottle of wine from Sainsbury’s under your jacket, just don’t be too unruly on your way to the club!
Featured Image courtesy of ‘Ralf Steinberger’ via Flickr. Image licence found here.