Call for public drunkenness to be illegal
By IAN STEWARD - The Press
Last updated 12:02 14/12/2009

A police crackdown on alcohol-fuelled violence has prompted the Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ) to call for public drunkenness to be illegal.

HANZ chief executive Bruce Robertson suggested the law change in the wake of Operation Unite, the trans-Tasman crackdown on alcohol-fuelled violence and disorder which began at the weekend.

"At the moment, it's perfectly legal to get trolleyed.

"The issue is changing people's attitudes," he said.

"[Currently], the only people who get penalised are the licensed premises staff and owners. There is no signal that 'hey, it's not OK to get p.....'."

Robertson said such a law would address the issue of "pre-loaders" people who came to town drunk on cheaper liquor bought from off-licences.

Christchurch central area commander Inspector Derek Erasmus yesterday pointed to pre-loaders as a significant problem during an otherwise quiet weekend.

"There was plenty happening in terms of drinking ... The biggest issue was that many people were already drunk before coming into town."

Erasmus said an extra 30 police officers patrolled Christchurch city on Friday and Saturday nights as part of Operation Unite.

The police presence saw a low 37 alcohol-related arrests in Christchurch on Saturday night for offending, including liquor-ban breaches, fighting and assault.

There was one incident of assault with a weapon.

Erasmus said in Christchurch it had proved effective to target low-level offending.

"This removed a significant amount of the instigators of serious crime early on," he said.

Robertson suggested drunkenness could be subject to penalties like helping clean up the streets the next day.

Supportive education programmes could also help, he said. "They've been pretty successful around drink-driving why can't they be successful around this?"

DRINK DRIVING ARRESTS

New Zealand police say they arrested 369 people for alcohol-related offending and 291 motorists for drink driving over the weekend in the trans-Tasman blitz.

New Zealand police reported a successful clampdown and they have released provisional statistics for the weekend's operation.

More than 1100 police hit the streets over the weekend. They found 47 licensing breaches, 139 liquor infringement notices issued, 115 assaults and 369 arrests for alcohol-related offending on Friday and Saturday nights.

They also stopped 35,690 vehicles and found 291 drivers over the limit.

The entire operation, including Australian figures, saw 5515 police on the streets, 290 assaults, 550 licensing breaches and 1815 people arrested.

Police have also highlighted the crime numbers they put down to alcohol.

The annual cost of crime due to harmful alcohol and drug use is estimated at $1.1 billion. This includes costs to the victims of crime, the use of police resources, court related costs and prison. Harmful alcohol use cost New Zealand an estimated $5.3b in 2005/06.

Police also said they estimate they spent $306 million or 32 percent of the police budget on alcohol and drug related offending and issues in 2005/06. On alcohol only, this equalled $172.2m, 18 percent of the police budget.

At least a third of all police recorded offences in 2007/08 were committed where the offender had consumed alcohol prior to committing the offence.

At least a third of recorded violence offences and family violence incidents in 2007/08 were committed where the offender had consumed alcohol prior to committing the offence.

In serious offending, such as homicides and incidents where force was used by police, about half of the alleged offenders or victims were affected by alcohol.

Police say that on an average day 62 individuals are either driven home or detained in police custody due to their state of intoxication, and 342 offences occur where alcohol was involved in the offending.

In Australia, alcohol-related crime is estimated to cost $NZ2.14b a year, with $NZ944m alone spent on policing.

- with NZPA

From here.