Inspector Sam Aberahama, Tairawhiti Police area commander
ALCOHOL is a major driver behind crime and crash in Tairawhiti. Alcohol features highly in disorder, violence, assaults, family violence and drink driving. Tairawhiti has high numbers, per 10,000 population, across all these crime types.
We can accept that “it is what it is” and carry on, hoping it will get better, or we can do something about it.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that alcohol is at the centre here because at times we are too focused on the behaviour and throw a heap of resources at the outcome, not at what is actually causing the problem.
If we maintain our focus on alcohol and we accept that the issues are what we are drinking and how we drink, then we need to look at a number of ways to reduce the impact it has on our community, our health system, our courts, our prisons and most of all our families.
In some of our communities’ eyes, it is destroying them and those around them. It is important to have a plan to best understand the big picture — so this is what we have done, focusing on the following three areas:
We develop an alcohol plan alongside our community partners and together we go out to our marae, iwi, schools, licensed premises, community groups and alcohol and drug facilities, and we work with them to reduce the impact alcohol is having on our communities.
Since the writer highlights the controlled purchase operation, I will refer to this as an example.
Along with the council’s Licensed Alcohol Reporting Agency, the Liquor Licensing Authority and Tairawhiti District Health, we deliver training to all on and off-licence staff, from bar staff to security. This education activity helps them to operate under the Sale of Liquor (SoL) Act requirements.
My staff continually co-ordinate a number of hotel visits and we check to ensure that the licensee is complying with the requirements of the Act, ie: no under-age people on site, not serving intoxicated patrons, food available and being promoted, licensed and trained staff on site. This is a preventive activity which is extremely well-received by most premises.
We also run controlled purchase operations such as the one on September 29, 2012 when we visited 17 off-licence premises (supermarkets, dairies and liquor stores) and 13 licensed premises (which include pubs and clubs) with a 15 and 16 year old.
This tests whether the licensee is complying with the SoL Act and whether the above education/preventive activites have worked.
For a majority it was successful, but for some it wasn’t and there will be consequences as a result.
I don’t make the law, I enforce the law and this is an enforcement activity.
The youth involved in this operation looked 15 and 16 years old and did not have false IDs — they actually don’t have ID on them. Once they are challenged as to their age, they leave the premises and police may follow up with a “well done” to the licensee.
The answer to your second question is, yes, the law is applied equally and more than fairly to all licensees.
Alcohol is a driver behind a lot of crime and crash in our region. We need to work on this collaboratively, as a community, every day — not just as individuals.
I invite the writer to come out with my staff for one night and see the alcohol-related offending they have to deal with.
Our communities have the right to feel safe and be safe, and this is what Tairawhiti Police are relentlessly working towards achieving.