An initiative which sees police officers hand out flip-flops to women struggling in stilettoes on their way home late at night “does not really deal with the root cause of the problem”, according to a DUP MLA.
Jim Wells was speaking after it was revealed this week that the PSNI in Co Down recently gave out free flip-flops to revellers after their nights out.
Their actions came to light when a woman uploaded a picture of her newly-acquired flats on Facebook.
The message thanked the “lovely police officer” for giving the woman and her friends “pink flip-flops”, as it saved them from “sore feet and blisters” the next morning.
The move gained a lot of fans for the police, as the post was shared 55 times and was “liked” by more than 1,000 people on the site.
Mr Wells said he didn’t want to be “critical”, and that he understood “the motives behind this initiative”, but added: “The reason why young women can’t walk home safely is usually the fact that they have consumed too much alcohol. The rates of binge drinking amongst young women have increased significantly in Northern Ireland in the last 20 years.
“The only long-term solution to the rise in alcohol abuse is the introduction of minimum pricing which will prevent pre-loading and encourage more responsible drinking.”
The flip-flop gesture is part of a joint initiative, Project Reach, by the PSNI and Down Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), and is implemented by the Kairos Centre, Newcastle.
Richard Morrison, from the Kairos Centre, said: “Over the last few years Kairos Centre, the PSNI and the PCSP have made sure that our young people who are discovering the joys and the pitfalls of nightlife are safe.
“Teams of committed volunteers from ‘The Reach Team’ have on Friday evenings worked alongside the PSNI, to make sure young people are warm, have flip-flops for their sore feet, and a lollipop to raise sugar levels.”
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie told the News Letter: “I welcome any actions that are aimed at protecting and assisting the community, ensuring that our young people get home safe and sound and that tragedies are averted.”