A CLAMPDOWN on excessive drinking is at the heart of the biggest ever campaign to be launched by Wiltshire police force today.

Operation XS was launched at midnight, just hours before England's opening World Cup match against Paraguay.

But unlike the world's biggest football tournament, the campaign will not just last a few weeks.

Statistics released by the police force show that crimes recorded as alcohol-related have increased 10-fold in the last two years.

In April 2004, 26 alcohol-related crimes were recorded in Wiltshire, but in April this year, that figure had soared to 266.

Central Swindon was identified as one of the county's worst trouble spots, with 154 alcohol-related offences being carried out in the last year (2005-06), while three out of five premises subjected to test purchasing by Wiltshire police and trading standards sold alcohol to a minor.

"Think twice B4 getting trashed" is the message officers want to get across to revellers over the next seven months.

During that time, officers will be visiting pubs, clubs and off-licences to ensure licensing laws are being properly applied, as well as conducting high-profile patrols in known violent crime and public disorder hotspots.

And that will see hundreds of police officers patrolling streets across the county with a zero-tolerance approach to anyone who commits a crime as a result of excessive drinking.

"This is not about the police being killjoys or puritanical about alcohol," said Wiltshire Constabulary's Assistant Chief Constable Peter Vaughan.

"The message is about moderation, about the problems that arise from excess and how in some cases those problems prove fatal.

"We've timed this campaign to kick off at the same time as the World Cup and let no one be in any doubt I want England to do well.

"I want to see a great tournament. But I do not want to be picking up the pieces of shattered lives at full-time."

Each month the police campaign, which will be run by Chief Inspector Norman McKeaveney, will centre on a different aspect of excessive drinking including violent crime, drink driving, the effect on health, drink spiking, binge drinking, anti-social behaviour and the effect of alcohol-related crime on the emergency services.

The message will be reinforced by a radio campaign voiced by The Office star Ralph Ineson, who plays Chris Finch, and there will also be screen flashes on cashpoint machines and message advertising on pay and display parking tickets.

"OP XS is not a publicity stunt," added Asst Chief Con Vaughan.

"And it is not a 24-hour wonder. We will be taking firm action against anyone who drinks to excess and commits crime tonight, tomorrow and the days, weeks and months thereafter. Welcome to OP XS."


campaigner Clive Loveday has thrown his full support behind Wiltshire police's OP XS.

Mr Loveday's 19-year-old son Matthew died on New Year's Day in 2005 after a New Year's Eve party in Buckinghamshire.

He was five times over the drink-drive limit after being challenged to drink shots of the aniseed liquor Ouzo as part of a drinking game.

During the party he drank up to 20 shots of the potent drink before passing out. He later died.

Mr Loveday, of Old Town, has spent the last 18 months educating youngsters about the dangers of binge drinking and he believes the newly-launched police campaign will further emphasise the message he works so hard to get across.

"I think OP XS is a positive move," he said.

"It is helping me really as I can't get around to everybody to warn them about the dangers of binge drinking. I think the police have put their campaign across in the right way.

We all like a drink, it has been part of our society for quite some time and will be for some time yet.

"Matthew didn't know what drink was going to do to him and I just hope young people can learn from what happened to him.

"I think my message would be, enjoy a drink, but make sure you do it responsibly."