DRUNKS will be targeted in a special police operation during this year’s Henley Royal Regatta.
Officers have been given new powers to confiscate alcohol from drinkers behaving antisocially in public.
Anyone who refuses to hand over their drink could be arrested and fined up to £500.
The move follows a 50 per cent increase in crimes during last year’s regatta, when 76 offences were reported, including 20 assaults, three incidents of criminal damage and six public order offences.Most occurred during the evenings after the rowing had finished.
South Oxfordshire District Council and Wokingham Borough Council have both approved a request by Thames Valley Police for a designated public place order, which covers all of Henley, Remenham, parts of Wargrave and Hambleden.
The order is also supported by the regatta, British Transport Police, Henley Town Council and residents who responded during public consultation.
Regatta secretary Daniel Grist said: “We were horrified to see the statistics on the levels of violence and antisocial behaviour during the weekend evenings of last year’s event. We’ve supported the police on this initiative right from the point that it was first mooted at last year’s regatta.
“We are very supportive and hope that we can return to a much safer event in the evenings.
“When we come back on site in the mornings we have noticed a lot more overnight damage, which is something we would definitely like to see improved.” Some people who responded to the consultation said that drunken behaviour was starting to drive people away from the regatta.
One said: “There can be no sustainable reason for allowing behaviour which makes people more insecure and threatens the quiet enjoyment of the majority of the town in which they reside.”
Supt Rob Povey said: “This order is about ensuring that people who choose to drink do so responsibly. Henley is a very safe place and we do not want a minority of people to affect the lives of others in a negative way, either at the regatta or throughout the rest of the year.
The order will be used in a proportionate way and should act as a deterrent, enabling police officers to confiscate alcohol if it’s causing a problem.”
A total of 85 police officers will be on duty at the five-day regatta, which starts on Wednesday.