Underagers caught in booze and fags sting operation

ALCOHOL and cigarettes were seized from underage youths in a joint undercover operation by Essex Police and Thurrock Council.

Around 60 units of alcohol (equivalent to 26 pints of standard lager) and cigarettes were seized during Friday’s event around Lodge Lane, Grays, which focused particularly on anyone buying alcohol for people under 18. This act of proxy alcohol purchase is a criminal offence punishable with a maximum fine of £5,000.

The operation focused on the area around Lodge Lane which is now subject to a Dispersal Order providing additional powers to the police allowing them to “disperse” groups of people who are hanging around in the area. The Dispersal Order was introduced at the end of June following complaints by residents about anti-social behaviour.

On Friday evening Essex Police enforced the Dispersal Order three times and carried out stop checks on young people seizing beer and spirits. The youngest person stopped was a 14-year-old girl.

Thurrock Council Community Protection Officers were on patrol alongside members of Grays’ Neighbourhood Policing Team. Essex Police and Thurrock Council Licensing Officers also carried out checks and a Fixed Penalty Notice was issued for the sale of alcohol to a person under 18. Investigations are ongoing into possible further enforcement action following this and a number of other incidents.

The operation is the latest in a series aimed at reducing the levels of street drinking and underage drinking in Thurrock with more planned, particularly through the summer.

Sgt Frazer Low, of the Grays neighbourhood policing team, said: “Proxy alcohol sales can fuel underage drinking, which in turn can increase anti-social behaviour. We have been working very hard alongside the Thurrock Community Safety Partnership to reduce anti-social behaviour around the Lodge Lane area of Grays. This operation was a success, and hopefully we have sent out a clear message that anyone who comes to this area to engage in anti-social behaviour or underage drinking will be dealt with robustly.”

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