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Better licensing and enforcement reduce crime

Better licensing practices and enforcement reduce alcohol-related crime, says visiting expert

Improved licensing practices and enforcement of laws relating to licensed premises can reduce crime at street level, says visiting Australian researcher Dr John Wiggers.

He says a significant proportion of problems relating to excess alcohol consumption such as street disorder, violence and vandalism occur following the consumption of alcohol on licensed premises.

“Alcohol consumption contributes significantly to the incidence of assault, drink-driving and domestic violence and contributes a significant cost to the community in terms of the cost of health care, policing and the administration of justice. The majority of such harm is associated with the consumption of alcohol on licensed premises.”

Dr Wiggers will be comparing Australian and New Zealand experiences relating to licensed premises at Partnerships Queenstown, a three-day conference on reducing alcohol-related harm which begins today [October 9] in Queenstown. The Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) is convening the conference.

He says the effectiveness of laws relating to the sale and service of alcohol is dependent on their appropriate enforcement, and research has found there is room for improvement in Australia.

In his keynote address to the conference Dr Wiggers will discuss the results of a collaborative project conducted in Australia between police, health promotion professionals and the hotel and registered club industry.

As part of the project, police collected information from offenders concerning their last place of alcohol consumption. Individualised reports that described the number and types of alcohol-related incidents attributed to the licensed premises were forwarded to the premises concerned. The responsible service practices of these premises were subsequently subject to a police audit. When followed up, it was found there was a significant reduction in incidents, Dr Wiggers says.

Dr Wiggers is a lecturer in the Faculty of Health at the University of Newcastle and is also Director of the Hunter Centre for Health Advancement in New South Wales. During the past 15 years he has undertaken research across a wide range of areas of health promotion issues. His work has had a strong focus on the prevention of drug and alcohol-related harm, particularly on minimising harm arising from the irresponsible use of alcohol.

The Partnerships Conference is being held in two venues, Queenstown [9-11 October] and Rotorua [14-16 October]. The regional conferences replace the national Working Together conference which ALAC has organised for the past eight years. The two conferences have been designed to allow a wide range of organisations to participate and discuss issues of alcohol-related harm and to share strategies and practical ideas in order to add value to their work. The conferences have a strong focus on acknowledging, developing and extending the range of community-level partnerships to reduce alcohol-related harm.

ALAC’s Programme Manager Sandra Kirby says ALAC is keen to support local and community initiatives in reducing alcohol-related problems. “We have found that a locally organised campaign, for example, is certain to make a difference if the community gets behind it,” Ms Kirby says. “International evidence shows that communities can make a difference – the role of central government agencies is to support local people working at local solutions. The regional Partnerships conferences will be promoting and encouraging the idea of partnerships and working together.”

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