When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Blackburn police patrols hit the street as they tackle local alcoholics
STREET drinking in Blackburn has become a major issue despite the town having a street drinking banning order.
Daily complaints have been flooding in to police about alcoholics gathering to drink and beg for money.
To tackle the problem police have taken to the streets to confiscate alcohol, educate drinkers and try to convince retailers not to sell cheap booze to known alcoholics.
Crime reporter Vanessa Cornall joined officers on an enforcement patrol to see just how severe the problem has got.
THE signs of Blackburn’s difficult relationship with street drinkers can be seen on almost every corner.
Cheap branded beer cans and bottles are discarded in shop doorways on Bank Top as well as on children’s play areas and green spaces.
The issue has been getting gradually worse over the past few months with business owners demanding something be done to stop customers being intimidated by begging drunks.
A favourite hang out of the town’s alcoholics includes Whalley Banks Post Office, Bank Top, and the play area next to the Griffin pub.
Police said elderly residents collecting their pensioners were regularly hassled by drinkers begging for cash.
The drinkers are men and women, from Eastern Europe and Blackburn.
Police believe the problem stems partly from the town’s sizeable homeless population, differences in culture and a lack of awareness of the no street drinking by-laws.
In a bid to combat the growing problem, police have been in touch with all the local businesses who sell alcohol.
Most of the shops, including Lidl supermarket, have agreed to work in partnership with the police and have either removed their cheapest alcohol from the shelves or are refusing to sell it to known drunk troublemakers.
Tesco on Bank Top, which can legally sell alcohol from 7am to 11pm, also said it was trying to be responsible.
A duty manager said: “Up until recently we didn’t realise there was an issue. Whenever I am on, I make a point of refusing to sell alcohol to known alcoholics first thing in the morning.
“But if three females are working in the shop alone and the men come in and kick off, it can be really intimidating when they threaten to smash up the shop if we don’t sell it to them.
“We can legally sell alcohol from 7am but we are now trying to be responisble.”
Minutes after leaving the police station on a recent operation, Sgt Kevin Jones spotted three Polish street drinkers sat near the Griffin Pub.
One 30-year-old man said: “I don’t want to sit in my flat and drink. What is better than being outside?”
Asked why he didn’t visit the pub, he said: “The pub is full of old, smelly people. I want to gather outside and meet my friends, I don’t understand why it’s a problem.”
Officers confiscated their alcohol before pouring it away and explaining to them the law surrounding the street drinking ban.
Just moments later, fellow street drinker and former Polish soldier Michael Minorczyk, approached the team.
The 26-year-old explained the reasons behind him living and drinking on the streets: “I came to England with my girlfriend in 2005 but shortly after we broke up.
“I started work but with the spiralling economy, I ended up losing my job and finding myself sleeping on my friend’s sofa and drinking hard, which he didn’t like.
“I returned home to Poland for a short time before eventually returning to Blackburn where I found myself living on the streets.
“I now sleep in the abandoned cars in King Street. I am an alcoholic and I need alcohol to survive. I have recently started suffering severe fits and if I don’t drink they get worse. I am scared I am going to die.
“I often drink up to six litres of Frosty Jacks cider in a day. I am going into rehab. I don’t want to be like this anymore.
“I get in trouble with the police for stealing so I can pay for drink. I have been doing this for seven years and that is too long.”
Businesses throughout Bank Top are counting the cost of cleaning up the mess of the spiralling drinking problem.
Car parks and shop entrances are constantly blighted with empty beer cans and rubbish.
Sgt Jones, who has been leading the area’s enforcement oeprations, said: “Drink fuelled anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated. We have a number of options to punish offenders including seizing alcohol and disposing of it down the drain. Other avenues include banning constant offenders from a specific area and levying a heavy fine.”
Anyone with concerns about street drinking can call police on 101.