Off-licences in Boston have received free training on challenging potential underage drinkers - after almost half visited failed a Challenge 25 test operation.
A total of 26 off-licences were tested by Lincolnshire Police using an 18-year-old to see whether the store staff would request ID.
But, 12 of them failed to apply the more stringent Challenge 25 test - basically asking anyone who they believe to be under the age of 25 to prove they are old enough to buy booze.
This is the test police are encouraging stores to make in a bid to combat a number of issues often associated with drinking. They are also warning next time they may send in a minor and anyone found to be serving them will face prosecution.
The initiative forms part of the work by the Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP) which began in October last year in a bid to tackle underage drinking, the antisocial behaviour associated with it, and indirectly, other problems caused by alcohol such as street drinking.
Policing lead on the CAP Insp Andy Morrice told The Standard this first test will build on the partnership between the authorities and off-licences, while also providing a stepping stone for future tests.
Insp Morrice said: “The results are disappointing, but it does give us a baseline of where we are at the moment.
“This additional training will hopefully give staff and management the confidence to challenge people safely.”
The training was carried out yesterday (Tuesday) by Tesco, one of the major companies which, along with other supermarket giants, and alcohol firms, puts money and resources into the CAP.
Every off-licence in the town has signed up to the scheme and the CAP has been engaging with these, handing out promotional materials and helping shops keep better records.
However, it’s not just about helping the off-licences, the CAP is also building on its partnership to carry out enforcement better.
Mr Morrice said another similar test purchase will be carried out once the training is complete, and if shops continue to fail ‘we can plan to put someone who is underage’ and a failure can then lead to prosecution.
He said: “We’re trying to be fair and ethical. We’re trying to work with them not against them.
“At the end of the day, it’s not unlawful to serve someone under 18, but they should be challenging and we’ve been engaged with management and told them they need to be prepared.
“They are really going to struggle at a court hearing now to say ‘we weren’t offered support’ or that they don’t know.”
l What do you think? Is enough being done to tackle drinking issues? Email firstname.lastname@example.org