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London to test electronic monitors to force offenders to stop drinking

Trial program would use electronic bracelets to detect alcohol

By Associated Press

LONDON — London will be the first city in England to test electronic monitoring to force persistent alcohol offenders to stop drinking, Mayor Boris Johnson said Friday.

Johnson said the program would use electronic bracelets to detect alcohol in perspiration of people convicted of serious drink-related offenses. The trial program is expected to start later this year.

One police force in Scotland is already planning to go ahead with a trial.

The mayor’s office says alcohol is a factor in a million violent crimes in Britain annually. The London Ambulance Service responded to nearly 52,000 incidents last year involving alcohol.

Electronic devices which continuously monitor alcohol are used in several U.S. states. Offenders who break their no-drink order can be sent to jail.

In South Dakota, 77 percent of offenders who chose the option of wearing the monitor stayed off alcohol, according to a report in the Argus Leader in December.

“The success of South Dakota proves that removing alcohol really reduces violent crime,” said Kit Malthouse, London’s deputy mayor for policing.

“Although criminals may protest, this may be the short sharp shock they need,” he added. “Offenders will have to ask themselves if a drink is really worth a night in jail?”

Legislation to permit such testing is now before Britain’s Parliament.

British authorities have not disclosed details of the devices to be used in the trial.

One system used in the United States, manufactured by Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. of Littleton, Colorado, checks every half hour for ethanol vapor in low levels of perspiration on the skin.

The company says this does not determine exact levels of alcohol in the blood, but it can distinguish whether the person has consumed a little, moderate or large amount of alcohol.

In October, Strathclyde Police based in Glasgow said it had applied to Scotland’s regional government to fund a trial of the Alcohol Monitoring Systems device.

Kathleen Brown, spokeswoman for Alcohol Monitoring Systems, said Friday the Scottish trial would be going ahead with the company’s SCRAMx system, which uses an electronic anklet.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press