A CAMPAIGN to eradicate alcohol-fuelled sex offences in Bournemouth has been hailed a success following a 50 per cent drop in reported crimes.

The hard-hitting project was launched in the summer last year following a worrying rise in incidents of rapes and serious sexual assaults linked to night-time economy in the town.

And now figures released to the Daily Echo show the number of reported sex offences have halved following the first six months of the campaign.

Between July 1 and December 31 2010 there were 32 reported rapes and sexual assaults in Bournemouth town centre – this fell to 16 reports during the same time in 2011.

The campaign aims to reduce the number of alcohol-related rapes and sexual assaults by encouraging people to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of crime.

Police urge revellers to stick with their friends and look after each other, get a licensed taxi or bus home, not to walk home alone or with someone they have only just met and not to get so drunk it affects their judgement.

And their key message to young men in Dorset is that sex without consent or someone too drunk to consent is rape.

Inspector Dean O’Connor, of Bournemouth and Poole police, said: “I am very pleased it has been so successful and I hope to gain continuing support from other venues in town watch to reduce this number of assaults even further.”

The campaign, which forms part of Dorset Police’s Operation Protect initiative to reduce serious and violent crime, has seen:

• Posters and tri-signs bearing the campaign’s iconic yellow warning triangle put up around Bournemouth and Weymouth town centres reminding drinkers how to stay safe.

• Continued visible police presence in the town centres.

• The Safe Bus parked up in Horseshoe Common in Bournemouth every Saturday night since August and its volunteers patrolling the town to help identify vulnerable people.

• Training already delivered to 12 Town Watch venues in Bournemouth and Westbourne to encourage bar and door staff do proactively look out for vulnerable customers and check on the welfare of people leaving their premises. This has been supported with first-hand accounts from people who have been victims of rapes and serious sexual assault in the town.

• An education programme delivered to 1,900 young people in schools, six forms and Bournemouth University.

Insp O’Connor said: “The campaign was launched because we recognised that some young women were enjoying the vibrant night life in Bournemouth and ending up in vulnerable situations through abuse of alcohol. On occasions this has resulted in life-changing crimes of rape and sexual assaults.

“Another aim of the campaign was to make visitors to Bournemouth town centre feel safe and have an enjoyable evening in the town.

“Over the last three years violent crime in the town centre, on average, has dropped 10 per cent a year.”

In November, the initiative received national recognition after being awarded a top media campaign at the Association of Police Communicators Awards. And interest has also been shown from other police forces around the country who are considering adopting a similar scheme in their areas.