A new initiative starting this week will see Wellington Police Districtâ€™s Traffic Alcohol Group doubled in manpower for an all out assault on central Wellington bars and the regionâ€™s roads to reduce alcohol related harm.
Their aim is to reduce alcohol fuelled inner city disorder and make it harder for the drinking driver.
Inspector Allan Boreham, Strategic Traffic Manager, and Inspector Marty Grenfell, Wellington Area Controller, say there are drivers playing â€˜Russian Rouletteâ€™ every time they drink then get behind the wheel of a car to drive home.
"There are people gambling with their lives and those of other innocent road users.
"Inner city bars are a huge social attraction but we donâ€™t want to see them turned into Wellington Districtâ€™s killing fields," Inspectors Boreham and Grenfell say. "Doubling the number of police staff on our Traffic Alcohol Group means we have a greater chance of catching problem drinkers at source before they try and run the gauntlet on the roads."
Police are horrified by the number of drunk people caught driving at a McKays Crossing checkpoint several weeks ago. Eight of the ten drivers caught over the limit had been drinking in the city before driving north up the coast.
"It was worrying enough that theyâ€™d decided to drive but to drive 50km before getting stopped was real roulette stuff."
Officers have also stopped speeding motorists mid morning on a Sunday and found them to be well over the alcohol limit.
For the next ten week trial period, TAG will operate with a sergeant and 11 staff -- they usually operate with a sergeant and five constables.
Their target focus is inner city bars and streets, and with the Group working all night, it will definitely be a case of "anywhere, anytime".
Mr Boreham says the latest Victimisation Survey still shows that â€˜being hit by a drunk driverâ€™ is the number one fear in New Zealand. "Alcohol relates to around 70 percent of the late night or early morning crime demand as well as all drink driving incidents.
"Seventy percent of drink drivers caught by our TAG staff had, with the exception of those caught in the Wairarapa, been drinking in Wellingtonâ€™s central business district before they got behind the wheel of a car.
Inspector Grenfell says the research, supported by the recent workshop Wellington Police had with noted Australian researcher Dr John Wiggers, shows we need to target areas such as bars before they become a problem.
"Our message is clear. Alcohol influenced behaviour, whether itâ€™s criminal or driving related, will be stomped on. There will be no leniency."
The Traffic Alcohol Groupâ€™s operating methods will include:
â€¢ Weekly high visibility â€˜show and tellâ€™ in the central Wellington business area. Officers will work with other frontline colleagues from beat and special response group to visit bars and talk with bar staff and patrons.
â€¢ Positioning the â€˜booze busâ€™ for periods at the Westpac Trust Stadium when events are on.
â€¢ Running covert and short duration checkpoints in different areas from where the â€˜Booze Busâ€™ is working.
â€¢ Using marked and unmarked police vehicles.
â€¢ Other Areas will continue to detect risk promoting offences such as speed and seat belt restraints.
Inspector Boreham says while the focus is in Wellington, outlying suburbs will not be left alone. The TAG including the Booze Bus will continue to operate across the District, including the Wairarapa, he says.