An Australasian health expert is visiting Wellington this week to help police and partner agencies gain a better understanding of reducing alcohol related crime.
Wellington Police and the Wellington City Council have invited Dr John Wiggers, the director for the Hunter Centre for Advancement of Health, part of the University of Newcastle, to share ideas on co-ordinated intervention and education strategies to reduce alcohol related offending.
Dr Wiggers has worked closely with police and health professionals in New South Wales. In 1999 he led the â€˜Linking Projectâ€™ which examined the effectiveness of intervention and education programmes and provided feedback to licence holders on ways to reduce alcohol related incidents.
His study showed that crime and harm reductions of 10 percent to 15 percent across several crime categories could be made by educating and providing feedback to licencees. The project was extended to include state-wide data.
Based on Dr Wiggersâ€™ work, New South Wales Police are now reaching the point where they can show empirically the actual impact of alcohol on their resources -- more than 60 percent -- and can effectively advise on police and tactics to reduce alcohol related harm.
A recent survey of Wellington Central Police Station charge sheets showed alcohol affected ninety percent of the violent offenders passing through the cells.
"Weâ€™ve had victims robbed, beaten, raped and killed after alcohol consumption in inner city bars," says Inspector Marty Grenfell, Wellington City Area Controller. "Weâ€™re concerned about the connection between recorded crime and the misuse of alcohol," he says.
Significant work is already being undertaken by police, Wellington City Council, the District Licencing Agency and public health officials to find ways of reducing the problem.
This includes the piloting of a new co-ordinated enforcement group comprised of police, DLA and public health, which is designed to quickly respond to and remedy problems associated with the misuse of the Sale of Liquor Act.
Other initiatives include controlled purchase operations, sharing of intelligence on problem premises and the consideration of liquor bans in the city centre.
"With 293 licensed premises in the CBD, getting it right remains a high priority," Mr Grenfell says.
"Reducing alcohol related crime has clear benefits for making our community safer," Mr Grenfell says. "Dr Wiggersâ€™ expertise will be invaluable for us."
Mayor Kerry Prendergast says cutting out the irresponsible sale and use of alcohol will help to ensure that everyone enjoying Wellingtonâ€™s vibrant and varied nightlife will have a good time.
"Wellington has a reputation as one of New Zealandâ€™s safest cities and we will do out utmost to keep it that way.
"For example, Wellington City Council is currently investigating, in partnership with the police, bans on liquor in certain areas of the central city.
"I look forward to hearing what Dr John Wiggers has to say about liquor bans and other issues relating to liquor," Mayor Prendergast says.