Nelson police strongly support the need to fundamentally review and reform the liquor laws. Nelson Bays Area Commander, Inspector Brian McGurk said today police blame the rise in reported public place violence in Nelson Bays is directly on the way people are drinking alcohol. "The current situation cannot and should not be acceptable," he said.
Police will be taking a strong line on alcohol in the run-up to Christmas to try and curb the rise in disorder in the city and are calling for public support to tackle the problem.
"My officers are dealing with an increasing number of drunken street assaults and many victims with serious and potentially long-term injuries, almost as a matter of routine," Mr McGurk said.
He said the vast majority of violence, disorder and domestic incidents police attend stem from the misuse of alcohol and a lot of problems started with young people drinking on private properties and then coming into town.
“We've had enough. I have a problem with parents and other adults providing kids with alcohol and then letting them go into town. They’re either becoming victims of crime, or offenders.
“Our public place violence is up 56 percent on the same period last year. The damage that is doing to Nelson’s reputation as a tourist destination is going to affect people’s businesses. The Nelson community needs to take some ownership of this problem."
Locally police have increased liquor enforcement activity and have supported the Nelson City Council to expand the coverage of the liquor ban areas, which are actively enforced. Last year there were 312 prosecutions under the Sale of Liquor Act in Nelson Bays. Nelson Police also issued more instant fines for alcohol offences per capita than any other area in the country.
Senior Sergeant Grant Andrews said this week police would be speaking with every bar owner in town to reinforce to them their responsibilities.
“We’re going to be giving a clear message to bar owners that they are responsible too. The level of intoxication we’re seeing coming out of bars is just not acceptable.”
Mr Andrews said licensees would also be reminded that their licence could be under threat if their patrons offended or were victims of an offence after leaving their premises.
Police are doing the liquor enforcement but believe the time has come for the community to take an active role in deciding the way forward to reduce alcohol-related harm in the community and Mr McGurk is calling for public support for a review of the licensing hours and licensed premises in the city.
"Along with the problem of people pre-loading and coming into town, 3am closing is giving more folk more time to get intoxicated," Mr McGurk said.
One possible local condition police would like is the introduction of a one-way door policy for all licensed premises after 1am. The policy has been effective in other cities.
"While it is timely to renew the debate on the merits of a one-way door policy, I believe the time has also come for the industry to have the courage to act," Mr McGurk said.
"With an incoming council it would be a good time for people to ask questions of their elected representatives about the reforms they would seek to implement."
Mr McGurk is holding a public meeting at the Victory Community Centre on Thursday at 7pm to give an overview of the work police are doing in the Nelson Bays area.