Woolwich shopkeepers are supporting a campaign to cut crime and anti-social behaviour by urging off-licences to take high-strength lager and cider off the shelves.

‘Reducing the Strength’ has been piloted in Woolwich and since starting 24 of the 30 stores targeted in the town centre have stopped stocking high-strength beer, lager and cider.

Shopkeepers are delighted at the dramatic effect the scheme has had on their businesses and have said takings have actually gone up as a result.

Townsend Newsagents manager Jay Patel, said: “We used to have drunk customers coming in, intimidating our staff, and actually urinating in the shop. When we stopped selling high-strength lager there was an immediate change, and the staff say they now feel a lot safer. I encourage anyone who has not yet signed up to do so.”

Traders were invited to a forum last Wednesday at the Woolwich Centre and received information about the cost of alcohol abuse on both health and crime, and met town centre wardens and licensing officers.

Kam Chotai, who runs Jash News in Woolwich New Road, said: “I support the scheme completely, and encourage others to sign up. It will encourage more people to come into your shop.”

There are plans for the campaign to be rolled out to other parts of the borough and is backed by the police and the Crime Reduction Initiative charity which supports people with alcohol abuse issues.

Greenwich cabinet member for community safety and environment Councillor Jackie Smith, said: “Abuse of high-strength alcohol is a very serious issue and it very quickly gets people into a state where their behaviour is not acceptable. I would like to thank all the traders who are co-operating with this scheme and urge other traders to sign up.”

Sgt Matt Burns, said: “One of the biggest challenges for us is anti-social behaviour, and a lot of that is linked to alcohol. Ninety-five per cent of the people drinking in General Gordon Square are regulars, and the vast majority drink very strong lager. Reducing it will have a knock-on effect and make the town centre a better place to be.”

The campaign aims to make it harder to buy cheap cider and lager above 6.5 per cent strength and shop window stickers are being provided for businesses to show they have signed up to it.