Police have welcomed the release of research showing the benefits that can come from targeted enforcement of liquor laws.
The new study, commissioned by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), looked at the impact of work by a special liquor policing unit in central Wellington, which operated during November and December 2004 and March and April 2005.
The unit focused on breaches of the Sale of Liquor Act relating to intoxicated patrons. Monitoring visits were directed to pubs and clubs that intelligence sources indicated were linked with the greatest number of alcohol-related incidents.
"Studies like this help to reinforce the message that proactive policing works," says Wellington District Commander, Superintendent Rob Pope.
"We need to get away from a reactive model where our officers simply go from dealing with one alcohol-fuelled fight, or detox pick up, to the next. Given so many of these incidents concern people who have got 'liquored up' at bars and clubs, we need to ensure that licensed premises play by the rules, and don't serve drunks.
"It’s illegal to allow intoxicated people to be in or remain on licensed premises. It's also illegal to allow people to become intoxicated on licensed premises, or to serve intoxicated people," Superintendent Pope says. "Licensees, bar managers and staff can face fines of up to $10,000 if caught."
The ACC study offers an insight into how the alcohol-related crime and disorder problems that police are having to deal with are also reflected in other services including ambulance call-outs, and hospital emergency department presentations.
Police acknowledge it is not just a one-sided problem, with drinkers needing to act sensibly too.
"We recognise that it can be hard sometimes to detect drinkers who are becoming intoxicated, especially in busy establishments with lots of people and low lighting," Superintendent Pope says.
"But ultimately the buck stops with venue owners and operators. They have the legal duty to stop intoxicated patrons being on the premises, let alone getting served alcohol.
"Our policing focus on their compliance with the Sale of Liquor Act can only help to ensure that licensed premises are run in a responsible way, where people can enjoy themselves in a safe environment."