Police arguing against their own data

The Herald reports:

Controversy over bar trading hours has polarised authorities, with contesting Auckland Council’s provisional Local Policy.

The two authorities are fighting over the time bars should be shut to best prevent alcohol-related brawls.

The argument has come down to one hour that they can’t agree on. A lot can happen in 60 minutes.

Both sides cite contradictory research and statistics to back up their arguments.

A 2013 law change limited the latest closing hour of bars to 4am and handed over the power to councils to enforce earlier closing times and one-way door policies within their own jurisdictions.

Since then, 20 councils have delivered provisional alcohol policies that are now under appeal.

The Auckland Council has proposed closing bars in the city centre at 4am, and a 3am curfew for suburban bars.

The council justified its position by saying closing city-centre bars any earlier would result in a mass exodus of punters at the same time, likely increasing violence.

Police say the council’s argument is “just wrong” and want to see suburban bars close by 1am and city-centre bars shut by 3am – with a 1am one-way door policy – to reduce the consumption of alcohol and, in turn, the fights.

However, police data obtained by the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act shows violent disorder offences, often linked to alcohol intake, have decreased consistently over the past nine years – from 3569 in 2007 to 2541 last year – in the Auckland Central area.

That is around a 30% decrease.  So on average there are eight offences a night, for a city of 1.4 million people.

Davey says the council must decide whether it’s more important to keep bars open an hour later to appease the alcohol and hospitality industries or to close them earlier and reduce the levels of harm.

Inspector Davey is sounding like a wild eyed lobbyist rather than a rational public servant.

He thinks the only interests served by having bars open later are the alcohol and hospitality industries.

No. The tens of thousands of Aucklanders who like to be able to go into town around midnight and drink and dance for a few hours. Of whom, the vast majority have a good time and don’t hurt themselves or anyone else.

But, Davey counters that reducing the availability of alcohol by even one hour would prevent “some of the needless death, serious injury and violence”.

I’m sure it would. But that is an argument to also go back to 6pm closing. It is about the balance.

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