In the Media

Met chief: force criminals to wear US-style 'sobriety bracelets'

PUBLISHED December 13, 2011

Bernard Hogan-Howe says the bracelets, which detect whether the wearer has been drinking alcohol, would cut crime

Scotland Yard's police commissioner has suggested that criminals in the capital could be forced to wear US-style "sobriety bracelets" to radically cut back alcohol-fuelled crime.

Bernard Hogan-Howe believes the technology could be a key tool in preventing alcohol-related crime in the capital.

He said that 80%-90% of night-time arrests by the Metropolitan police were to do with alcohol and believes that reducing alcohol consumption over time could prove to be a "great benefit" to society.

The Met chief told a conference he was monitoring a trial in the west of Scotland for violent offenders with alcohol-related problems receiving community sentences. The pilot by Strathclyde police is believed to be the first time the technology has been used outside the United States.

A US judge ordered the actor Lindsay Lohan to wear the bracelet after she failed to show up for a probation hearing relating to a 2007 drink-driving case.

The electronic tags can detect whether offenders have broken a ban on drinking while serving a community sentence. "The technology bracelet tells the offender whether they are offending," Hogan-Howe told delegates at a London policy conference.

"It is important for us to use technology and to use these preventative measures around two areas ? one around alcohol and certainly around drugs [because] the two most aggravating factors around crime tend to be those areas."

He said "you can literally smell the problem in the air" by walking around police cells at night. "So many of the those being held are drunk," he said.

The bracelets, often tagged to the ankle, record the wearer's alcohol intake by measuring air and perspiration emissions from the skin every 30 minutes.

They reportedly detect blood alcohol levels as low as 0.02% and can tell when alcohol was consumed before electronically transmitting that information to a base monitoring station.

American courts have ordered the devices to be fitted to thousands of defendants released on bail and awaiting trial for alcohol-related offences, those on probation, and underage drinkers.

Hogan-Howe, who took up the post of chief of the Metropolitan police ten weeks ago, highlighted the scheme as he set out his vision for policing in the capital based on prevention as well as enforcement.

He drew on the initiative in South Dakota in America, where a district attorney decided that people convicted of drink-driving offences would be tested every day, morning and night, for a period of time. If they were found to have a certain level of alcohol in their system, they would go back to prison for a day. About 90% of people passed the test, leading to a drastic "fall off" of deaths on the roads at the hands of drink-drivers. But indirect benefits included a reduction in domestic violence incidents because these were often triggered or aggravated by alcohol excess.

Hogan-Howe, who insisted that he was "not prohibitionist", said: "I just think there is a great opportunity there."

He added: "The point is if you can reduce the alcohol intake over time it may well be that we have got a great benefit we can offer our society, and maybe young people." © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds