British Pub Hours and Crime
The Economist website (only subscribers can read the article) has an article dated January 6 that illustrates nicely the interplay between security trade-offs and economic agendas.
In the 1990s, local councils were scratching around for ideas about to how to revive Britain's inner cities. Part of the problem was that the cities were dead after their few remaining high-street shops had shut in the evening. Bringing night-life back, it was felt, would bring back young people, and the cheerful social and economic activity they would attract would revive depressed urban areas. The "24-hour city" thus became the motto of every forward-thinking local authority.
For councils to fulfil their plans, Britain's antiquated drinking laws needed to be liberalised. That has been happening, in stages. The liberalisation culminates in 24-hour drinking licences....
This has worked: "As an urban redevelopment policy, the liberalisation has been tremendously successful. Cities which once relied on a few desultory pubs for entertainment now have centres thumping with activity from early evening all through the night."
On the other hand, the change comes with a cost. "That is probably why, when crime as a whole has fallen since the late 1990s, violent crime has gone up; and it is certainly why the police have joined the doctors in opposing the 24-hour licences."
This is all perfectly reasonable. All security is a trade-off, and a community should be able to trade off the economic benefits of a revitalized urban center with the economic costs of an increased police force. Maybe they can issue 24-hour licenses to only a few pubs. Or maybe they can issue 22-hour licenses, or licenses for some other number of hours. Certainly there is a solution that balances the two issues.
But the organization that has to pay the security costs for the program (the police) is not the same as the organization that reaps the benefits (the local governments).
Over the past hundred years, central government's thirst for power has weakened the local authorities. As a result, policing, which should be a local issue, is largely paid for by central government. So councils, who are largely responsible for licensing, do not pay for the negative consequences of liberalisation.
The result is that the local councils don't care about the police costs, and consequently make bad security trade-offs.
Posted on January 12, 2005 at 9:01 AM • 31 Comments