IN October 2007, Harrogate town centre was swamped by a group of 200 children who had been refused entry to a private party after arriving at the venue drunk.
Just two months later, a town centre hotel was forced to shut down a secondary school’s Christmas ball because of drunk teenagers, while groups of other children had to be taken to hospital after turning up drunk to a separate clubbing night.
As a result of these two events North Yorkshire Police, working together with the Safer Communities Partnership, licensed premises and the Salvation Army, introduced Operation Beacon – a scheme to ensure vulnerable children are not left unsupervised in the middle of Harrogate.
Operation Beacon put a number of measures in place such as parking the mobile police office near to Mansion, a nightclub in King’s Road which held under-18s nights; increasing police and PCSO presence in the town centre and hotspots and using St John’s Ambulance to reduce the number of children being referred to Harrogate District Hospital for alcohol-related issues.
The project also saw a greater police presence on a Friday night 36 bus from Ripon, described by Harrogate Council as a “party bus”.
To combat the problem of underage drinking in the town centre, police were on hand at the special under-18s events held at two night clubs.
Officers were there to confiscate any alcohol they found, call parents if children had been drinking and keep an eye on the queue going in.
Door staff also checked everyone for alcohol before they could enter and breathalysed those showing signs of being drunk.
In February 2008, 20 of the 600 teenagers in attendance came to the attention of the police and the parents of 15 of them were called to come and collect their children.
The following time, just five had to be sent back home and between March and May the numbers steadily continued to drop.
At the most recent events in June and July, none of the youngsters had to be sent home.