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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 May, 2004, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Police warn over later pub hours
Binge drinking has been blamed for increases in violent crime
Relaxing licensing laws could lead to an increase in violent crime, the country's most senior police officers have warned.

The government argues that allowing pubs and bars to stay open longer will help curb the binge drinking blamed for an 11% rise in violent offences.

But the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) says alcohol and drugs are recurrent themes in violent crime.

The warning comes as Acpo meets for its annual conference in Birmingham.

Acpo's president Chris Fox told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We cannot deal with binge drinking - it is beyond police capability.

"We have to attack the behaviour.

We are seeing this increase in drinking and binge drinking, heavy drinking to excess in large numbers
Chris Fox
Acpo president

"Unless we can stop young people drinking to excess in crowded clubs, the symptoms - what they do when they come out - will get worse.

"Society is changing. We are seeing this increase in drinking and binge drinking, heavy drinking to excess in large numbers."

Perception

The association is also warning that the ready availability of weapons and ammunition is likely to lead to an increase in gun crime in the future.

"We are seeing an increase in the propensity to use weapons," Mr Fox told Today.

The warning follows the first ever detailed analysis of criminal activity in all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

But Acpo claims that the lack of quality information is hindering their efforts to tackle gun crime.

Home Secretary David Blunkett is due to open Tuesday's conference which is being held along with the Association of Police Authorities.

He is set to say that the public "remain unconvinced" that crime is actually falling.

David Blunkett
Home Secretary David Blunkett is due to address the conference

He will also say that it is important to ensure that people feel safer as well as keeping crime rates down.

There was a real challenge to make an impact on the perception gap, he is expected to add.

Mr Fox also said the public needed protection from organised crime at one end of the scale and anti-social behaviour at the other.

"In order to face the challenges ahead of the changing world we need to stay one step ahead of the criminal by working together more.

HAVE YOUR SAY
De-regulating bars will only serve to inflame an already dangerous situation
Phil, Blackpool UK

"This conference will give us time to reflect on these issues and turn thoughts into real policing actions in neighbourhoods around Britain," he added.

"We have to work in the neighbourhoods to make them safer places - but at the same time we have to learn the skills that help us investigate international crime, deal with more complex societies of different races and cultures and get other parts of society to help us," Mr Fox told Today.




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