DRUNKEN yobs who damage property in Garstang will be automatically banned from town pubs for at least three months under a hard-hitting new scheme.
The unprecedented move symbolises a tough crackdown on the louts, and comes in response to a recent increase in incidents of criminal damage in Garstang.
Police and pub landlords say they are determined to put an end to alcohol-related vandalism and anti-social behaviour. They say they have introduced the banning scheme to get the message across that 'nuisance crimes' like breaking off car wing mirrors, smashing shop windows and wrecking floral displays will not be tolerated.
The decision, made by members of the Garstang and Over Wyre Pub Watch group at a meeting on Monday, follows a similar scheme that was put into action in Fleetwood last month.
In Fleetwood those causing damage after a night out risk a one month ban - but in Garstang it was agreed to go even tougher with a minimum three month ban.
At the meeting on Monday the one month ban was initially proposed, but representatives from pubs across the area decided that would have little impact, and that at least three months would give those causing damage more to think about.
Pub Watch organiser and ex-licensee Joe Curran is now hoping to include owners of off-licences and supermarkets in the Pub Watch scheme, which has seen several trouble-makers banned from the area's pubs for as long as 12 months.
Mr Curran said: "Criminal damage is a problem in this area. Cars in particular are targeted and wing mirrors are kicked off by people who we believe are under the influence of alcohol.
"This decision shows a clear understanding that the licence trade in Garstang and the sur rounding area is taking more ownership and responsibility for people who are under the influence of alcohol and are causing criminal damage.
"It's a message to the local community that although licensees retail alcohol, they have a commitment and a responsibilty to the community.
"Anybody who commits criminal damage within the town under the influence of alcohol and is caught by police will be banned from all the pubs and we hope that off-licences will become part of the scheme in the very near future.''
Kelly Wilkins, landlady of The Church Inn at Bonds, said: "I do think it's a good idea, as long as people realise criminal damage just won't be tolerated. There have been problems, especially with flowers being damaged, and it's a shame when everybody tries so hard to keep Garstang looking so nice.
"If everyone can respect that it will prove we are all working together to keep it the nice, friendly community it always has been. Hopefully, for the ones who do want to spoil it, the three month ban will make them think twice.
"I don't think one month would work. It wouldn't really have any effect. If we're going to do it, we should do it properly."
Nigel Browning, landlord of the Farmers Arms at Garstang, added: "I'm fully supporting everything that Pub Watch does. I think it works. I've definitely noticed the difference in my pub. People who have behavioural problems are taking it seriously. Before, they could upset a licensee and fall out with one pub and go somewhere else, but now they know they can't.
"Criminal damage is out of order. If something happened to your vehicle you would definitely want something like this banning scheme in place.''
If police catch anyone causing criminal damage after a night out and successfully prosecute them, they will now be able to take those names to Pub Watch meetings and licensees will be able to ban them for a minimum of three months.
Neighbourhood policing Sergeant Nicki Bignell, who attended the meeting with PC Ary Lewis, said: "We fully support the decision and think it's fantastic. Criminal damage is one of the main objectives that we are trying reduce, and it's nice to see that Lancashire Constabulary is working in partnership with the licensees to combat this problem."
PC Lewis added: "If people can't handle alcoholic drinks and cause anti-social behaviour and damage, they are going to be barred from using any licensed premises in Garstang and Wyre. Three months is stressed as a minimum. If they continue to behave in this way the bans could continue."