Police put spotlight on drunks

Palmerston North police are cracking down on wayward drinkers as sweeping new alcohol laws dry up excessive summer swigging.

As police tackle one of the most alcohol-fuelled times of the year, the benefits of new liquor laws are starting to show in the city.

Changes to the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act, which took effect last week, have seen a raft of reforms introduced and the police taking a "prevention rather than enforcement" approach.

Under the legislation, off-licences must be closed by 11pm, on-licences by 4am, and police can hand out on-the-spot fines or warnings for offences.

These include faults such as breaching local liquor bans, lending identification to someone under 18, and presenting a fake ID - all punishable by a $250 fine.

The legislation defines intoxication for the first time, describing it as displaying impaired speech, impaired behaviour, or impaired co-ordination.

It also allows police to clamp down on bar owners serving drunks, or letting drunks stay on the premises, with offenders facing a $10,000 fine and loss of their licence for five years under the new three-strikes system.

Senior Sergeant Cliff Brown, of Palmerston North, said it was too early to tell the exact effects of the changes in the city, but it was raising awareness around alcohol harm and habits.

"It's providing a bit more accountability for people . . . and rather than going through a lengthy court process we've been given some very useful tools to take some immediate action to curb that type of offending.

"There's some really good stuff coming from this and it is certainly going to help out police and help out our communities."

Under the new laws police have handed out a handful of infringement notices, as well as making a number of arrests in Palmerston North. Mr Brown said the number was still being tallied and police national headquarters would release a regional break down in mid-January.

Palmerston North's police presence has been ramped up this summer, with police taking a number of pre-emptive steps aimed at stemming holiday season trouble, Mr Brown said.

Among them is the annual Operation Bolt scheme, where police try to reduce the risks around alcohol consumption during the silly season.

More officers have been patrolling Palmerston North's high-risk areas at high-risk times, Mr Brown said.

"When we do these operations we see a decrease in disorder and serious violence, victimisation and less calls for service from police."

Police have been pounding the pavements on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in The Square, as well as some shops and car parks. The last circuit for the year was on Christmas Day.

Manawatu Standard