THE ill-effects of alcohol are costing Darlington’s local economy more than £43m a year, a senior police officer has warned councillors.

The NHS, the police and social services are all taking the financial strain of dealing with people who have drunk too much, while the amount of lost working days to hangovers is estimated to cost the town almost £16m a year.

Members of Darlington Borough Council’s licensing committee heard a presentation from Inspector Colin Dobson, from Durham Police’s alcohol harm reduction unit, who used the force’s own statistics with information from North East alcohol office Balance.

Alcohol-related incidents account for more than 10 per cent of all police call outs in Darlington, while drug use accounts for less than two per cent of incidents.

In total, police attended 39,531 incidents in Darlington borough in the last 12 months – 8,310 of those incidents were recorded as crimes, with a 39.8 per cent detection rate.

Violence in the town centre is reported to have dropped by ten per cent in Darlington, while shoplifting has also reduced, putting the town at odds with a wider regional trend showing a growth in shoplifting offences.

Insp Dobson said the general decline in the night-time economy in Darlington may have something to do with the decrease in violence, but warned that officers were being called to more domestic incidents as a result.

He added: “Newcastle, York and Durham are the only towns in the North East that are thriving at night. Everywhere else is in decline, Darlington is not unique in that.

“We still have officers dedicated to the night-time economy – if you intervene early and get people out of the town centre when they are at the level of drunk and disorderly you can probably prevent a more serious crime later.

“People are drinking more at home now because of cheap alcohol from supermarkets. There is a move from violence in the town centre to violence at home.

“Where we see a decline in the town centre violence, that just means that we have to put resources elsewhere in the town.”

Councillor Cyndi Hughes described the figures as ‘staggering’ and added: “There are lots of different reasons why people drink alcohol.

“I am in full support of efforts to educate young people about the effects of alcohol and the risks.

“The figures are staggering and we need to reduce these costs but also the human cost, which is even more staggering – that needs to be considered just as much.”