Pubs in Leighton Buzzard are teaming up with Bedfordshire Police in a crackdown on drugs and anti-social behaviour.
Central Bedfordshire Council is also collaborating on the venture – Leighton Buzzard Pubwatch – in a bid to make pubs safer and more welcoming places.
The group stated: “Drugs and crime can ruin the pub experience for everyone including staff and customers and Leighton Buzzard Pubwatch members have had enough.”
Anyone caught handling drugs in any Pubwatch pub can face a ban of up to two years from all Pubwatch venues. More than a dozen pubs in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade as well as the surrounding villages are now part of the scheme, with hopes that more will join.
Criminal damage can also be punishable with a ban of up to five years in addition to a lifetime ban from the venue where the crime was committed.
Stev Stipanovic, chairman of Leighton Buzzard Pubwatch, said: “We are hearing more and more about drugs from all our members around the town. But now we have more power to ban offenders from a large number of pubs right across Leighton Buzzard and Linslade.
“We are currently at 15 members and our membership is growing quickly, so the impact of such a ban on a person will be considerable.
“The benefit for us is that we share information with each other about what’s going on.”
Pubwatch is a national initiative that has running in Leighton Buzzard for several years.
Mr Stipanovic, who took over the Black Lion pub around four years ago, added: “We were contacted by existing Pubwatch members and we immediately joined. Then, bit by bit I somehow ended up becoming chairman more by accident than design!
“What we’re trying to do is to make our pubs safer, we don’t have to accept behaviour that is unbecoming or illegal.”
And Mr Stipanovic has nothing but praise for Bedfordshire Police in supporting the initiative.
He said: “I think they are absolutely fantastic. We as a group sent our thanks for the way they policed the night-time economy over the Christmas period.
“It’s very easy to berate or pick fault, but they do the best with what they’ve got. As far as Pubwatch is concerned, we’ve got no complaints at all.”
Sgt Liam Mitchell, from Bedfordshire Police’s community safety team, said: “Local Pubwatch schemes play a key role in managing the night time economy of our town centres.
“Venues work together to deter crime, and exclude those who seek to undermine the safety and enjoyment of others.
“Bedfordshire Police works closely with Pubwatch schemes across the county, and the force actively supports this great work.
“The number of venues that are committed to participate in the scheme in Leighton Buzzard is really encouraging, as is their enthusiasm to ensure Leighton Buzzard is a safe and pleasant place to visit.”
For more information or to become part of the scheme, email firstname.lastname@example.org.