TWO new campaigns to curb anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled violence in Basingstoke town centre have been launched.

Operation Drink Safe will see extra police patrols on Friday and Saturday nights, new monthly meetings with door staff at the town’s nightspots, and a poster campaign reminding people of the dangers of excessive drinking.

It will be led by Hampshire Constabulary, with backing from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Basingstoke hospital and the Street Pastors group.

The police campaign will run alongside another called Operation Milkshake, which is aimed at younger people.

That involves a newly-approved dispersal power, using the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, for the town centre, which means that officers can move on groups of more than two people who are causing a disturbance.

Town Centre Sergeant Olga Venner, of Basingstoke police station, told The Gazette: “If you have groups of young people in Market Square, that’s going to overlap with people going out to the pubs and clubs.

“It’s about making the whole of the night-time economy as safe as we can so people can enjoy the town. We have got a very vibrant town centre with restaurants, theatres, pubs and clubs, and we want to make it as safe as possible.”

Violent crime in the town centre involving drink and drugs has decreased marginally since the start of the year from nine incidents in January to seven in June.

Last year, there were spikes of similar violent incidents in June and December, when there were 21 and 18 incidents respectively.

Chief Inspector Andy Bottomley, Basingstoke and Deane District Commander, said: “We’ve been working hard to reduce violent crime in the borough over the last year, and now we’re determined to bring it down even further through this operation.”

He added that any business selling alcohol illegally or failing to act responsibility would also “suffer the consequences”.

Operation Drink Safe has the backing of staff at Basingstoke hospital. Sara Sparks, assistant manager of the emergency department, said: “We clearly do have a large amount of people who turn up to the hospital at the weekends.

“One of our concerns is the long-term effects of drinking.”