How to calm binge drinkers: get them all blowing bubbles
They have considered Asbos, curfews and Taser stun guns in the war on binge-drinking youths on Friday and Saturday nights. Now police are developing a new weapon.
Drinkers will be encouraged to play with children's bubble blowers instead of picking fights, in a scheme to start next month in Bolton. Police will hand out the free toys as young people pour out of pubs and clubs in typically boisterous mood.
But the initiative has been condemned as a 'nursery school gimmick' and a waste of taxpayers' money. The blue and orange bubble blowers, which double as pens, will be handed out by police community support officers and town centre ambassadors on Saturday nights. Elaine Sherrington, a Bolton councillor, said: 'They are a great idea to keep things light-hearted. Revellers will have something fun to focus on as they leave pubs and clubs. The run-up to the festive period should be full of fun, not problems with drunkenness or rowdy behaviour.'
The plan has been drawn up by the Be Safe Partnership, involving Bolton council, the police and fire service. The council could not say how much the bubble blowers have cost, but they usually retail for £1-£4.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: 'This is completely bonkers. People want the police fighting crime, not handing out nursery school gimmicks. If this money isn't needed it should be given back to taxpayers, not squandered.'
The move is unlikely to match the innocence of Bubbles, John Everett Millais's painting of a golden-haired boy gazing up at a bubble, which became iconic as an advert for soap.
It is not the first unorthodox effort to curb alcohol-fuelled behaviour: in recent years Manchester police have handed out lollipops to stop people shouting in the street after nights out. It was revealed last week that women in Devon, staggering home in high heels, are being given flip-flops to stop them falling into the gutter.
The Observer, Sunday November 30 2008