Pie cart's demise helps lower crime - police

Alcohol-related disorder in Alexandra has “dipped very strongly" and has been linked to people under the influence of alcohol being unable to congregate at the Alexandra pie cart.

At a Vincent Community Board meeting in Alexandra this week, Central Otago sub-area commander Ian Kerrisk said crime rates in Alexandra were following a national trend and decreasing.

Police had noticed a decrease in disorder and wilful damage since the pie cart had ceased to operate, he said.

The pie cart was destroyed by fire on May 11 when a fryer on board exploded after it over heated because of a fault with its thermostat.

By the time firefighters arrived at the scene, in Centennial Ave outside the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery, nothing could be done to save the cart.

Disorderly behaviour incidents had dropped from six in July last year to none last month, and wilful damage incidents had dropped from five to two in the same period.

Because of the nature of the business and its opening times, it was a magnet for people after they had been at licensed establishments in the town, Mr Kerrisk said.

People drinking at the different establishments would meet at the pie cart after closing time, and alcohol mixed with different personalities meant it was not always a good outcome, he said.

Since the cart had gone, people were going straight home after the pubs closed but the decrease in crime could also be linked to the colder weather, he said.

After the meeting, Alexandra pie cart owner Lynne Giles said it was an "unfair assumption" that the decrease was because the pie cart was not there.

"There was no crime around the pie cart. It was never actually at the pie cart." She said the town died in winter.

Mr Kerrisk said while there had been a drop in adult offending in the town, youth drinking was on the rise.

There was a rise in the number of people under the age of 18 being found in public places possessing alcohol, and police had been tipping alcohol out and giving warnings to those caught, he said.

However, the message was not getting through.

More $200 instant fines would be handed out to under-18s caught breaking the liquor ban and police would be taking a hard line, he said.

Ms Giles said she had predicted youth crime would rise. When the pie cart was operating, youth had a place to congregate.

Despite it being 14 weeks since the fire, Ms Giles said she was still waiting to hear from the insurance company.

A decision on whether the pie cart would be rebuilt was "totally out of our hands" and would not be made until the insurance company made a decision, she said.

The Southland Times