Police: serving booze to drunks will cost you

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014

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Alcohol inflicts a "disproportionate" amount of work on police and bars that sell booze to drunk patrons can expect to have their liquor licence suspended, Waikato's new police boss says.

After taking up the district commander role earlier this year, Superintendent Bruce Bird has noticed that alcohol is a major problem, particularly in central Hamilton at night.

"If you want to supply intoxicated persons then we'll have your licence - no problems," Bird said.

"We'll do it through a gradual response model. It will be education first but if you're not going to listen then we'll go to the authority and seek a suspension."

Once that occurs it's "bloody difficult" to get back.

No on-licence premises have been stung yet but they have been suspended in Counties Manukau, Wellington and Nelson.

"Generally speaking . . . the first time you go up and get breached [the authority] will go up and say, ‘OK, you're going to have to close on four Fridays'. But they always pick the days that are going to hurt."

And once those customers move to a new establishment they generally don't come back, Bird said.

"If they've borrowed a lot of money from banks and the like, to establish their business, they're jeopardising it."

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act toughened and updated the country's liquor laws last year. Establishments that serve alcohol to an intoxicated person 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.

Bird believes there is a shift occurring in how people view alcohol and the role it plays in communities.

He applauded those taking a stand about the increasing number of liquor outlets and sports clubs, for example, who have gone alcohol free.

Generally, Bird believes the Kiwi bent for binge drinking is a symptom of a cultural problem, but he's not sure what that problem is.

"You start mixing [heavy drinking] with some other problems, other drugs, then you've got a recipe for violence. What we can do about that is work with people to see how we can actually preclude it and that's why I admire sports clubs, marae, all those people now starting to say, ‘We're going alcohol free'.

"There's going to be housing projects in [Hamilton suburb] Enderley that will be alcohol free. We've got a realisation in the community now that they don't like it. We've seen communities rise up against how many liquor stores there are in communities. There is a movement, how long it takes will be interesting."

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Bird is at the forefront of the new Prevention First policing model and he has a clear explanation of how problems associated with alcohol can be prevented.

If you view the city as one big problem, you'll never get anything done, he said.

"When you start breaking it down into smaller problems then you start to get some traction because every one of those problems will have a different response required.

"When you start to see a pattern, then it's predictable. If it's predictable then it's preventable. That's why you have to start breaking things up and having a look.

"Instead of saying the CBD's got an alcohol problem, they've got a night-time problem. But what are the components that play out in that night-time problem? Every one will give you a different response.

- Waikato Times

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