22 March 2017

ExPERT project evaluates #RU2Drunk

#RU2Drunk is an intervention based on security staff using breathalysers to restrict access to pubs and clubs for people who have already had too much to drink.

The ExPERT Police Knowledge Fund project generated collaborations and research on #RU2Drunk and then gained funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to evaluate the scheme further in Devon and Cornwall and for the first time in Dorset. 

Chief Inspector Neil Ralph, Devon and Cornwall Police tells us about implementing #RU2Drunk in Torquay.
How was the idea of #RU2Drunk developed?
The plan to implement  #RU2Drunk in Devon and Cornwall was initiated following a presentation from Chief Constable Simon Bailey on the use of breathalysers with customers in the evening and night time economy in Norwich.  This pilot intervention had involved security staff using breathalysers to restrict access to pubs and clubs for people who had already had too much to drink; the police in Norwich reported a drop in violent crime during the month long initiative.  The #RU2Drunk pilot in Torquay, Devon was implemented in order to combat a rising volume of violence against the person offences (in South Devon).

The 3 key aims of #RU2Drunk were established as:

  • Reducing alcohol-related crime
  • Safeguarding vulnerable people around the night-time economy in Torquay
  • Promoting partnership working with the licensed premises

How was the intervention implemented?
Following some implementation advice from Norfolk Constabulary it was identified that the intervention required support and participation from all 23 of Torquay's pubs and clubs to ensure 'saturation' of participation.  Door and bar staff were trained in using the breathalysers (which were funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner). Pubs and clubs used their own discretion to set the level of intoxication at which they would prevent entry to the premises; this encouraged empowerment and participation with the licensed premises. Each pub and club was given a simple briefing sheet which indicated relevant information relating to the breathalyser e.g. the drink drive limit (35ppm, so a limit of 70-80 was suggested).  Paignton, neighbouring Torquay, was identified as a comparison group as it is of roughly a similar size and make up to Torquay. No breathalysers were issued to premises in Paignton who had been experiencing a similar level of increase in violence against the person offences (excluding domestic abuse crimes).

Community policing teams and officers working shifts then continued to interact positively with pubs and clubs participating in the scheme throughout the month of December 2014 (when the pilot was run).  A central feature of the intervention was the awareness raising campaign which was implemented prior to the launch of #RU2Drunk.   This focused on a number of issues including reducing "preloading" i.e. drinking to excess before going out.  The campaign used social media, television, radio and the press. As an example, the social media campaign reached approximately 844,935 people.

What were the most 3 most important criteria for successfully implementing #RU2Drunk?

  • Buy-in of the licensed trade
  • Support from academia helping to improve and support the validity of the study
  • Having a detailed awareness raising campaign

What were some key findings from the Torquay pilot?
During the trial, 818 breath tests were recorded, leading to 298 people being refused entry. An analysis of the crime data showed a 39% reduction in non-domestic abuse 'violence against the person' (VATP) in the night-time economy area of Torquay between 2013 and 2014 compared to a 120% increase in Paignton. In addition, the month of the #RU2Drunk pilot had the fewest VATP cases in the Torquay NTE in the entire two-year period and is far below the average number of cases per month. That said, there was a low base rate of incidents (>25) and the comparison was for one month only, so the percentages should be interpreted with caution. Finally, public opinion supported the scheme with 79% of respondents to a public opinion survey indicating that they thought the use of breathalysers on the doors of pubs and clubs was a 'good idea.'

Watch this video to find out more about how Chief Inspector Neil Ralph got academics interested in #RU2Drunk.

Drs. Katharine Boyd, Hannah Farrimond, and Dreolin Fleischer from the University of Exeter tell us about their evaluation of #RU2Drunk.

How did the University of Exeter get involved in #RU2Drunk?
Initially, Dr Boyd and Dr Farrimond worked with DCI Neil Ralph to evaluate the South Devon pilot in 2014 by offering skills in interviewing/survey design. Further research on #RU2Drunk was made possible through the Police Knowledge Fund collaboration between Devon and Cornwall Police and the University of Exeter - Exeter Policing, Evidence, and Research Translation (ExPERT) project. The overarching purpose of the ExPERT project is to develop capacity for evidence-based policing.  Project Generation Forums (PGFs) are one component of the ExPERT project; these bring together police, community stakeholders, and academics to co-produce relevant research bids.   The topic of alcohol-related violence, and #RU2Drunk specifically, was identified as a natural subject for the first PGF. The result was a six-month Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) grant focused on evaluating #RU2Drunk in the South West.    

Tell us about the evaluation of #RU2Drunk
The evaluation consisted of two studies, one in Dorset which focused on evaluating the impact of #RU2Drunk and one in Devon and Cornwall which examined two areas where #RU2Drunk had previously been implemented.

Dorset Research
In Weymouth, the University of Exeter research team conducted a mixed-method external evaluation of #RU2Drunk from mid-September 2016 to mid-December 2016, using Bournemouth as a comparison site.  We collected primary data in the form of semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, license holders/managers of premises; observations of the Weymouth night-time economy with in-situ interviews with the public and staff of businesses; a focus group with security staff; and an online public opinion survey.  We also did secondary data analysis on completed breathalyser forms collected by the Police and crime data made available to us by the Police.

Dorset Police published this article to mark the official launch of the #RU2Drunk breathalyser scheme in Weymouth.

Devon and Cornwall Research
In Devon and Cornwall, our research looked a bit different.  We selected two locations (Torquay, Devon & Truro, Cornwall) that rolled-out the #RU2Drunk scheme previously (2 years prior in Torquay and 15 months prior in Truro) to investigate current and ongoing breathalyser usage.  It was known, from conversations with police and licensing staff that some venues had returned their breathalysers or transferred them to other premises.  The level of use of breathalysers was gauged, and following that, researchers spent one evening at each location to observe and conduct in-situ interviews with door staff.  

We found from our research that in both locations, a minority of the licenced premises that initially participated in #RU2Drunk continued to use the breathalysers.  Those continuing to use them tended to use them for specific purposes which were incident dependent (e.g., to discourage drunk driving, as a diffusion tool, etc.) rather than part of entry process at the door of the pub or club. 

The locations that continued to use the breathalyser tended to be clubs with dance floors that attracted clientele later in the evening, while places that were no longer using the breathalyser were locations that were more cafĂ©/restaurant oriented and either closed earlier, attracted an older clientele, or tended to be the places where people drink and/or eat prior to going to clubs or other late night venues. The qualitative research in Torquay and Truro provided insight into what happens in the years after the initial roll-out of the scheme and in the report we provide useful recommendations for implementation and future research.     

Did you have any difficulties in evaluating #RU2Drunk?
#RU2Drunk aims to address alcohol-related crime and disorder but the recording of whether a crime is alcohol-related is still relatively unreliable, so we focused the crime data analysis on violence against the person incidents.  We looked at violent crime in the night time economy over time (September 2014-December 2016) and between locations (Weymouth and Bournemouth).  Despite strong media coverage at the start of the scheme, limited use of the breathalysers (for a variety of reasons), led to weakened implementation of the trial scheme in Weymouth. 

While there is no clear pattern within the data to suggest a decrease in crime stemming from the scheme in Weymouth, there is the possibility that an effect would have been found with stronger implementation, that is, if breathalysers had been used more regularly and as intended by the scheme.  We did find a decrease in non-domestic abuse violence against the person and other non-violence against the person crimes in the night-time economy hours in December 2016 from the year prior for Weymouth with an increase for that same time period in the Bournemouth comparison site; however, a time delayed or lagged effect is unlikely without full implementation throughout the trial. The results of the evaluation in Weymouth highlight the importance of investigating implementation and acceptability of the intervention, not just the effectiveness, as both are necessary to help explain effectiveness results. The learning from both the implementation and evaluation of #RU2Drunk will help to improve the impact of similar schemes in other regions as well as inspiring others to work with academic partners to evaluate interventions.

For a more detailed description of the evaluation and its findings please see the evaluation report.

You can find out the best available evidence on alcohol-related crime reduction interventions on the Crime Reduction Toolkit.  These include:

Alcohol ignition interlocks
Alcohol tax and price policies
Drink-driving courts
Increased police patrols to reduce drink-driving
Mass media campaigns to reduce drink driving
Minimum legal drinking age laws
Policies on hours and days of alcohol sales
School-based programmes to reduce drink-driving
Sobriety checkpoints


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