Reconfiguring the violent encounter? Preloading, security staff and breathalyser use in the night-time economy
International Journal of Drug Policy
Reason for embargo
Currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Elsevier. 12 month embargo to be applied on publication.
Background: In a culture of preloading and late-night licenses, alcohol-related violence remains a persistent problem for police and public health. Understood as a ritualized ‘micro-social’ interaction (Collins 2009a; Collins 2009b), entry into bars and clubs is a particular flashpoint for violence between bouncers/door staff and customers. Methods: A police-led initiative to deter excessive drunkenness and preloading using hand-held breathalysers (the #RU2Drunk scheme) was investigated from the perspective of security and bar staff using the devices. Interviews (n=18+12), a focus group with security staff (n=22) and a focus group with a security company (n=3) were conducted in two seaside towns in the South-West of England, UK. A qualitative thematic analysis was conducted. Findings: Door staff emphasised the normality of ‘determined drunkenness’ and associated violence in their working lives. Breathalyser use appeared to disrupt the ‘ritual’ of the violent encounter by reconfiguring it to an interaction between customer and technology. This depersonalized the judgement about who was ‘too drunk’ to enter the venue, with the more discretionary nature of who to breathalyse hidden from customers. Other door staff found it less useful and saw it as a challenge to their authority and expertise. At a managerial level there was concern about the transfer of responsibility for policing the night time economy (NTE). Conclusion: There is potential to reconfigure the violent encounter for door staff using breathalyser devices. However, this is more likely to succeed where other structural limits (e.g. restrictions on late licenses) are in place, and as part of wider policy initiatives to reconfigure the alcohol-saturated NTE leisure scene.
The running of the breathalyser scheme and initial crime data analysis in Torquay was funded by Devon and Cornwall Police, with the Office of the Police Crime Commissioner (then Tony Hogg) funding the breathalysers and tubes. No external grant funding was obtained for the Torquay analysis. The evaluation of the Weymouth scheme was funded by an ESRC IAA Project Co-creation Award, ‘#RU2Drunk? Evaluation of the roll-out of a breathalyser initiative to reduce alcohol-related violence in the South West’, July-Dec '16 with Devon and Cornwall/Dorset Police.
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