DRUNKEN yobs have been blamed for a 70 per cent increase in violent crime on the streets of Fleet in the past 12 months.

The shock rise has been linked to the rapid growth in the number of licensed premises in the once quiet town.

Police are so worried by the late night violence that they have urged Hart Council planners to help stop the rot.

They want them to use existing powers to make it more difficult for premises to be converted into pubs and bars.

Superintendent Joe Apps, North East Hampshire police chief, said: "The town attracts youngsters from a wide area, even from as far afield as Bournemouth."

After boozing the night away many of them then roam the streets trying to pick a fight with anyone who gets in their path.

Recently the town's CCTV cameras followed a group of 10 yobs who picked nine separate fights as they marauded through the town centre.

The young thugs were all arrested and convicted of a range of offences including affray, and causing grievous and actual bodily harm.

Supt. Apps said that, in addition to seeking Hart Council's co-operation, more police officers were patrolling the streets.

"We are also asking licensees not to continue serving drinks to those who appear to be getting drunk," he continued.

Moves are also underway to improve the use of CCTV coverage, and a Pub Watch scheme - which alerts publicans of troublemakers - has also been introduced.

In nearby Aldershot, a town with a reputation for late-night violence, the picture is altogether different.

According to Supt. Apps the streets have been comparatively quiet for the past 18 months to two years.

He said the period of calm dated back to the arrival of the Welsh Guards, which coincided with a crackdown on troublemakers by the army's top brass.

"We have worked well together and the level of violence on the streets has reduced substantially," he continued.

Soon, however, the Welsh Guards will be moving to Wales, with the Coldstream Guards taking their place in Aldershot.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed that the change doesn't lead to an outbreak of trouble," he said.