A CAMPAIGN to clamp down on underage drinkers has seen 32 youngsters targeted in the first month.
The Safer Hartlepool Partnership launched the initiative last month aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour on town streets and in local communities.
Police say they will not tolerate youngsters drinking on the streets as campaign bosses say they are determined to stamp out the problem.
Under the Policing and Crime Act 2009, anyone under the age of 18 who is found in possession of alcohol three times in a 12-month period runs the risk of a £500 fine.
Figures show that during the first month of the campaign 32 young people were caught in possession of alcohol in a public place.
Of these, two people were caught in possession on two separate occasions and had to attend a formal interview with their parents present.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s Youth Offending Service and Anti-Social Behaviour Unit has joined forces with Cleveland Police to ensure that there is a co-ordinated approach to the campaign.
Sally Forth, the council’s community safety manager, said: “We’re adopting a multi-agency approach to make the best use of these powers and in the first month alone we caught 32 young people.
“Over the summer months we normally see an increase of underage drinking in public places and we are determined to stamp it out. It is a well known fact that young people can cause themselves considerable harm by drinking alcohol and we hope they heed the warning.
“It is hoped that by sharing information and working together to educate young people about the harm caused by alcohol, that no-one will need to be prosecuted.”
On the first occasion that a youngster is found in possession or drinking alcohol, a letter is sent to their parents reminding them of the law.
On the second occasion, youngsters will be referred to the Youth Offending Service and Anti-Social Behaviour Unit, who will offer education and support with their parents present.
On the third occasion, youngsters face prosecution.
Chief Inspector Lynn Beeston, of Cleveland Police, said: “We are not prepared to tolerate underage drinking in public places. I’d also like to stress that the offence covers anyone in possession of alcohol. The police do not need to prove that anyone underage has been drinking or was intending to drink.
“The police will prosecute those who do not heed the warnings and our message is quite simple – ‘Underage drinking in public is unacceptable’.”
Also, as part of the powers, police officers are able to move anyone on over the age of 10 from an area if they feel that nuisance could occur.