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In the first of a series, the Waikato Times looks at binge drinking in Hamilton's CBD and what can be done about it.
There's a girl in a mini-skirt crouched and vomiting in the gutter and a drunk who screams and rages after being locked up in the police paddy wagon.
There are hundreds of males high on liquor and testosterone and females whose busts and thighs verge on explicit at every bounce.
And there's the man who nobody notices at the tail end of another Saturday night in Hamilton.
It's just gone 3am, last drinks, and punters in various states of hammered are loitering outside The Hood at the north end of Victoria St.
Some can barely stand. The music's gone and they're still spilling onto the pavement before the doors close at 3.30am. The mob goes nowhere.
A volatility creeps into the cool air, as if a sharp word or a slap on the backside could flick a switch that starts an all-in brawl. Facing the crowd of hundreds is a line of seven police officers. Every one is hoping that word or slap doesn't flick it. But they're ready to step in if it does.
Sergeant Lara Beisly wishes they'd all get swept up and tucked into their beds, somehow.
Now the man appears from the direction of Hood St. He stalks through the melee silently. Looking. He's older and alone and dressed forgettably.
Nobody notices him except Constable Carrenna Isaac. She watches him keenly and whispers in Beisly's ear. The man is a sex offender, she says, and watches him go.
There are three Police Support Units in the city. They consist of a Sergeant and eight constables and they monitor the pre-loaders and drinkers on the busiest nights of the week.
Their job is to enforce liquor bans in and around the central city, keep liquor licensees on their toes and prevent and stop crime. They are busy - arrests, infringements, and abuse are typical.
Beisly's crew is on duty tonight. En route to the Wairere Drive roundabout in the paddy wagon, at 10.30pm, Constable Trent Montgomery tells a story from a recent night to explain the kind of things they see.
"From what we understand at this stage, an 18-year-old guy comes out of The Outback Inn with his sister and cousin. It was his sister's 18th or something. Good reasonable people. Not too drunk.
"And a man in his forties, a builder that you'd expect to be a good citizen, king hits this guy out of the blue. No words to him. He runs. We chase him. He runs to Alexandra St, then runs to his car. We run out in front of him, indicating for him to stop. He swerves towards us and drives off. We radioed through and they picked him up down the road. He couldn't explain why he did it."
The man was drunk. He had also probably smashed his victim's eye socket.
At the Wairere Drive roundabout the crew finds three teens - one is urinating in full public view.
The 17-year-old is arrested for urination in a public place and is destined for detox in the cells at Hamilton Central Police Station. The trio had wandered from an 18th party nearby. Police pat the urinator down and empty his pockets.
His friend, initially outraged, shuts up and there's a bottle of vodka found in the teenage girl's handbag. Montgomery pours it out.
Beisly worries about girls like her.
"Imagine if she drank that bottle and then they're plastered and they do become victims.
"They don't realise how much they're putting themselves in danger. Every weekend we find young girls passed out in bushes.
"I worry when I see some of these students who have lost their friends, their bag, their phone and they're wandering around town plastered."
Because Beisly knows who's out there.
It's 2.48am when she rounds the corner from Victoria to Hood St through the thumping noise of bars and strip clubs and finds someone to worry about.
This girl, in a leopard-skin mini-skirt, is hunched up on the curb vomiting into the gutter. Vomit has splashed onto the footpath and soiled her five-inch heels. No taxi driver will take her, and she can't walk unaided. She's visibly chilled.
The girl wipes flecks of vomit from her mouth with and clasps a smartphone. Fortunately she has two friends, and Beisly, at her side.
EYES ON: Police stand outside The Hood, a popular bar in the city, as patrons arrive and leave. Photo: Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ
As town starts to hum around midnight, the police team begin their scheduled bar checks. They're looking for aggressors, for drunks, and to stay in the manager's mind. They hit The Hood, Bar 101, Shenanigans. The Bank, House and Altitude follow.
Police are more powerful now since the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act came in. Bars that serve booze to intoxicated patrons can be fined up to $10,000 and their licence could be suspended for up to seven days.
If a bar commits three specified offences within three years they could lose their licence and/or manager's certificate for five years.
New Waikato Police District commander Superintendent Bruce Bird has warned clubs who serve drunks that "we will have your licence, no problems". Beisly says two warning letters have been served in the past month. No licenses have been suspended. Yet.
Before hitting the streets, Beisly outlines her take on the city's drinking habits and policing them.
She did the same job in West Auckland where bars were dotted across the city. In Hamilton, they're jammed in on Victoria, Hood and Alexandra streets. The drinkers pour out at closing, mingle and start fighting, she says.
But behaviour has improved somewhat since the act came in.
"I really believe in preventing victims, whether they're drunk and they're going to get robbed or they're going to victimise or hurt someone else. Alcohol is causing 99 per cent of offending on weekends anyway."
Booze wagon: Police take stock of alcohol found in this car stopped in the city centre. Photo: Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ
There's a final drama to end Beisly's night. The crew spots a car on Hood St at 5am that a girl is struggling to escape from.
Her foot is stuck under a wheel. She's highly intoxicated and will not say why she fled except that the four men inside had "freaked her out".
Hamilton has a reputation and the males travelled in from South Auckland, as many others do, to drink. They had met the girl, a student, in a club earlier in the evening.
She drank with them and somehow ended up in their car.
Beisly took her home.
The driver of the vehicle is done for drunk driving. The keys are taken and the passengers sleep it off inside at the end of another Saturday night in Hamilton.
An average Saturday night in Hamilton.
Offensive behaviour 2
Disorderly behaviour 1
Fighting in a Public Place 3
Obscene Language 1
Removed three intoxicated people from licensed premises
Warned two people for disorderly behaviour
Asked eight to go home due to their intoxication, warning them not to enter any other licensed premises
Issued 12 tickets to people for breach of liquor ban, four of which were written warnings
- Waikato Times