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Stop kids drinking

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014
Liquor Protest

STAND TOGETHER: A silent picket was held this month to put a spotlight on underage drinking.

Liquor Protest
Josephine Bartley

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Teens in Tamaki are drinking hard liquor and one community leader is determined to stop it.

Glen Innes resident and local board member Josephine Bartley watched in horror as a bottle store sold alcohol and loose cigarettes to a girl who she knew to be 15 on March 7.

The girl was part of a group of teens aged 14-15 who were swilling straight vodka on the street.

"This kind of thing has become so normalised," Ms Bartley says. "People in our community are apathetic about it because it's just what you see every day - kids drinking on the street.

"It's just not acceptable and it's not normal. When will people wake up and see that?"

Ms Bartley called the police and confronted the liquor store about the sale. The matter has been referred to the police liquor licensing team.

Ms Bartley organised a silent picket last Thursday to put a spotlight on the issue. About 25 concerned residents and young people took part.

Ms Bartley, who is also part of the Tamaki Community Patrol, says underage drinking is an ongoing issue for the suburb with youngsters drinking around the town centre and in the Glen Innes rail tunnel at all hours of the night.

She drives the teens home if she spots them.

"They're drinking dangerously. They're putting themselves at risk and it's just not safe for them - or others. Some of these kids feel like they're invincible, anything could happen."

One liquor store manager says operating an off-licence in Glen Innes is frustrating.

Many youngsters in the area have fake IDs and it is not uncommon for parents to buy alcohol for young people in the store, he says.

"We don't want to sell to people under 18.

"We get a $2 profit off a bottle but a $10,000 fine if we get caught. It's not worth it. That's our entire business gone."

Senior sergeant Ross Endicott-Davies says the problem is not isolated to Tamaki. The police alcohol harm reduction team does constant checks on off-licence premises around Auckland and penalties can range from a fine to suspension of the licence, he says.

"There's no one particular premises that's worse than others. Of course when we hear information we follow up and we've got some stores that are particularly high risk. We check them all."

Lonny Levi says the community has become more aware of the issue in the last few years. Mr Levi runs the GI Eastsiide Glen Innes Auckland Facebook page which has more than 3000 followers.

"For us it's about hearing the community's voice and trying to come up with a solution from within.

"What they've been saying is that it's to do with family responsibility but it's also coming back to the liquor stores as well."

Go to face book.co.nz and search GI Eastside to get involved.

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- East And Bays Courier

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