LONDON – Volunteers will hand out free flip-flops to intoxicated partygoers hobbling home on high heels, British police in the resort area of Torbay said Friday.
Partygoers who've lost their shoes or can't make their way home safely in stilettos or platforms will receive the government-funded footwear as part of a program intended to reduce the impact of drunken behavior on the area's police and emergency services, Inspector Adrian Leisk said.
Torbay, a seaside resort on England's southwest coast, is popular with British vacationers and the waterfront can attract as many as 10,000 people on weekend nights over the summer, Leisk said. He added that the area gets "very, very vibrant."
He said special policing teams already had been deployed to cut down on violent crime in the area, and that authorities were now focusing on mitigating the health impact of heavy drinking.
That includes deploying volunteers to stalk the streets handing out water bottles, advice and information on sexual health and alcohol use. It also includes giving flip-flops emblazoned with educational messages to partygoers who might be a little unsteady on their feet.
Leisk said the program was being funded by a $46,000 government grant, of which about $300 would go toward funding the flip-flop giveaway, which he said could free paramedics from dealing with minor injuries.
"Our aim is to reduce admissions into the accident-and-emergency room," Leisk said, explaining that it could prevent revelers falling or having their bare feet hurt by broken glass.
Britain is among the hardest-drinking countries in Europe, and the government has struggled to find ways to contain the impact on boozing on the nation's health. A report earlier this year showed that the country's alcohol-related death rate nearly doubled between 1991 and 2005 — from 6.9 to 12.9 per 100,000 people.
Letting pubs stay open later — a plan aimed at ending the nightly scramble to down as many drinks as possible before last call — has failed to curb binge drinking, and the government is now considering a ban on "happy hour" discounts at bars and restaurants to help curb drunkenness.
Although the flip-flop volunteers in Torbay are primarily targeting young women, Leisk suggested that men could occasionally find themselves shoeless after an exuberant night out.
"Let's not make it sex or gender specific," he said. "There are plenty of times when young men go out and loose their footwear, if you know what I mean."