The last weekend before Christmas is one of the busiest of the year for police forces as festivities in town centres result in an increase in alcohol-related disorder.
On the average weekend, a significant amount of police force resources are committed to dealing with the consequences of irresponsible drinking; resources which could be employed dealing with other crime.
At Christmas this increases dramatically: a dip sample of ten 10 police forces showed an average of 69 per cent more police officers on duty on the weekend before Christmas than usual.
ACPO lead for alcohol and licensing Chief Constable Adrian Lee said:
"The increase in the number of officers needed to police our town centres over the festive period shows the extent of the problem that police and other agencies face in tackling the consequences of binge drinking.
"In just 10 of our police force areas, there will be over 1,400 extra police officers out on duty the weekend of the 21 December, which is more than the total service strength of my force of Northamptonshire."
The officers on duty this weekend may be dealing with drink-fuelled violence, sexual assault, anti-social behaviour, theft and criminal damage.
If you are going for a drink in town centre pubs and clubs over the Christmas period, you can expect to see an enhanced police presence. Forces will have more officers out on the street to interact with revellers providing advice on staying safe, intervening in situations that could escalate and subsequently reducing the incidences of drink-fuelled crime and disorder.
An inspector recalls a recent incident in Northampton's town centre on Saturday night:
"A young girl was ejected from a club at 1am accompanied by a man. She was so drunk she could hardly walk. Myself and another officer went to see if she was ok.
"She could barely talk and incoherently mumbled her name. The man she was with explained that her name was Sally and said that he was her boyfriend. I asked him where she lived and he said that she lived in the university halls of residence and he would be getting a taxi to take her home straight away.
"We tried to speak to her again and after calling her Sally several times, she looked up and said 'My name is Amanda'.* We looked around to find the man had gone.
"After she had sobered up sufficiently to tell us where she lived, we took her home to an estate nearby where she lived with her mother.
"Officers from a proactive violence reduction team went to visit her the next day. She couldn't remember the incident and had no idea who the man was."
Chief Constable Adrian Lee said:
"Cases like this show us why police are out on the streets this Christmas: not to spoil people's fun but to keep people safe and prevent crimes from occurring as well as responding when they do. Luckily this girl was spotted by police officers who intervened and ensured she got home safely but potentially the situation could have ended very differently.
"We are planning to do all we can to protect you from crime and disorder this Christmas but you also need to take responsibility for your own safety and not drink to a level where you may commit a crime or be vulnerable to becoming a victim. Think ahead and make plans to ensure that you have an enjoyable night."
Tips for staying safe:
• Pre-book your taxi - do not get into one that you do not believe is licensed - remember only black cabs can be flagged down. Private hire vehicles need to be booked.
• If you are out with friends then stay together - if drinking, know your limits - too much alcohol can leave you vulnerable.
• If using public transport to get home, wait in a well-lit place or with people you know.
* Name has changed.
Statistics from a dip sample of 10 police on their plans for the weekend 21-22 December 2012.
Police forces will make use of a range of tactics to manage alcohol related crime and disorder over the Christmas period: giving a verbal warning, issuing dispersal orders to separate groups involved in anti-social behaviour that could escalate without intervention, serving exclusion orders that make someone leave an area and not return for up to 48 hours and in the case of repeat offenders applying for a Drinking Banning Order.