Good coverage in today's Echo for the launch of a crackdown on under-age drinking. Working together, the Police, Council and 200+ retail outlets are looking to reduce the incidence of teen drinking. Henceforward no-one who looks under the age of 21 will be served without proof of identity.
Every community in the Borough is blighted by anti-social behaviour fuelled by drink. In my ward, local people and councillors have complained about one or two rogue businesses who turned a blind eye, and allowed kids to stock up. An off license sold openly to children - indeed one resident told us how she saw girls in school uniform buying Bacardi Breezers first thing in the morning.
No-one should doubt how difficult this problem will be to crack, however. At some outlets retailers have been bamboozled by young adults buying alcohol, which they then hand on to children congregating nearby. And when the Police do take action, they've told me of instances where the parents of returned children have admitted giving drink to their children, and can see nothing wrong in that.
Perhaps the most bizarre example was in Belsay Close, where local people suffered from ongoing problems associated with Springfield School Playing Field. Older children and adults collected on the field to drink. One resident told me how he'd seen a white van pull up in the street, and the young adults were passed a "slab" of beer from the back in exchange for cash. Fortunately, the Dispersal Order seems to have put paid to this kind of behaviour.
On a positive note, the Echo story demonstrates how the community in Darlington is coming together to tackle the scourge of under-age drinking. At the end of the day, however , the solution lies with the families concerned.