In the run-up to next year's general election, David Cameron has made a pretty optimistic pledge: he's going to beat Britain's booze epidemic.
Under new plans announced on Monday, judges will have the power to strap an anti-alcohol bracelet to your ankle if you're found guilty of a drink-related criminal offence. The device samples the wearer's sweat every 30 minutes and tests it for alcohol, leaving them no choice but to put the bottle down and meditate on their crime from the depths of some joyless, boozeless, healthy, totally clear-headed limbo.
Or does it? The bracelet – known as The Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring System (SCRAM) – is already in use in 48 states in the US, monitoring the daily booze consumption of around 400,000 people. While that may seem like a victory for Big Brother, humans tend to find a way when it comes to booze. And, as ever, a raft of tips on how to cheat and beat this particular device have washed up online.
With Cameron promising to add to the 400 English and Scottish souls currently being used as human guinea pigs for the bracelet in the UK, I've listed some of my favourite tips for you below.
THE BEVERLY HILLS COP II
Remember that scene in Beverly Hills Cop II where Axel Foley "completes the circuit" by sliding tinfoil into the alarm system to shut it off, before opening up a window with a flick knife? I don't know a huge amount about rewiring alarm systems, but I'm assuming there was a bit of movie magic at play there.
Mind you, that hasn't stopped people from trialling a similar technique with the booze bracelets – sliding a piece of foil or plastic between their skin and the device, and believing for half an hour that they've outsmarted the system with a method my barely-sentient nephew could draw up.
Only, once that half hour's up, you'll have a police officer knocking at your door to find out why SCRAM's database isn't registering any perspiration readings. No good.
THE SKIN HARVEST
The tag's main anti-tamper mechanism is an infrared beam that calculates the reflective degree of the surface between you and the tag. A few anti-SCRAM die-hards suggest harvesting an old blister and sliding it between your skin and the sensor, covering your sweat glands. But dead skin dries fast, so ensure you're packing a pipette full of moisturiser to spritz it up every time it starts to flake into nothingness.
THE SLEIGHT OF HAM
If blister harvesting sounds like too much work / the most disgusting waste of time imaginable, you could try something that a number of US parole officers have actually caught people doing: wedging a slice of ham under the sensor in an attempt to simulate sweat-free human skin.
"This is much less effective. It more often than not interferes with the hourly readings the device takes, and we'd notice when we get the daily report and would definitely contact you," an unnamed officer told The NY Daily News, adding: "And it must smell pretty bad when you cram baloney in there."
I guess the lesson from that is, if you're going to give this a go, use some of that high-end ham from the deli counter so at least you look mildly classy while you're walking around with meat trimmings stapled to your leg.
THE CAT STRAP
You could also try strapping your SCRAM unit to something else, just like the guy in Cheyenne, Wyoming who attached his ankle tag to his cat. Unfortunately, this technique wasn't as foolproof as it sounds; the machine went haywire trying to send the readings back to SCRAM's central database, alerting those monitoring the technology.
"The machine said, 'I ain't buying this: that's not a human heart,'" Bob Moeller, a subcontractor for Polygraphs Etc, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
So take it from Bob – attaching a device built for humans to a cat is not an effective route to unhindered boozing.
There is one method that's proved to be pretty effective, but I'm not going to include that here, because – as invasive as they sound – the bracelets have actually helped law enforcement with one very worthy cause: the fight against alcohol-related domestic violence.
"Over the past 12 months, we've had tags on about ten individuals," says Sergeant Nigel Parr of the Cheshire Police. "And that's been on a voluntary basis as part of our 'root cause' problem-solving, where alcohol often plays a major factor in domestic violence."
According to a 2011/12 study by Britain's Institute of Alcohol Studies, there were 917,000 incidents where the victims believed the offender (or offenders) to be under the influence. Of these cases, 280 individuals were killed and 1,290 suffered serious injuries. These stats account for 47 percent of violent offences committed that year.
"Where alcohol is obviously a major contributing factor towards an offence, clearly the concept of where David Cameron wants to take it would be of benefit," says Sergeant Parr. "But it's not just about the police putting a tag on people. Alcohol-dependent individuals have got to be supported and mentored by other agencies as well."
So there it is: while they might be a slightly oppressive form of punishment for people guilty of just getting a bit too pissed on a Friday night out, they could be very useful in curbing more serious alcohol-related crimes, like GBH, criminal damage or drink driving.
So the best course of action, if you do find yourself fitted with an anti-boozing bracelet, is to just keep it on – it'll inevitably help you out in the long run. And if it's the aesthetic value you're worried about, don't fret, Chanel have you covered.
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