By Andrew Starke
NSW Police have expressed disappointment that a call to drink responsibly over the past weekend had gone unheeded with three police officers assaulted when attempting to remove drunk patrons from licensed premises.
However the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW played down the police response by pointing out that millions of people had again enjoyed the state’s hospitality, tourism and entertainment economy over Friday and Saturday night without incident.
AHA (NSW) CEO Sally Fielke told TheShout that hotel licensees worked hard with NSW Police across the weekend to ensure the success of Operation Unite, with relatively few violent incidents reported on licensed premises.
“It’s pleasing to see arrest figures well down on the December figure, and the trend is falling”, she said.
“According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) violence on licensed premises is at its lowest levels since 2002 – and we will continue to work hard to ensure this trend continues.”
However hard line police commentators said arrest numbers were only down because of the cold weather and that the operation had again highlighted ‘the chaos and mayhem caused by alcohol-fuelled violence in Australian cities every weekend’.
Acting President of the Police Association Pat Gooley said restrictions on pubs and clubs, such as mandatory 3am closing times, were needed to address Australia’s 24-hour booze culture.
“Operation Unite has proved that our culture of alcohol and violence is out of control – with boozed-up idiots running wild all over the country,” he said.
“If the NSW Government wants to bring about ‘real change’, then it should put an end to the 24-hour booze culture that causing so much damage to the community.”
In total, NSW police arrested 563 people over the weekend and charged them with 830 offences relating to crime and anti-social behavior.
Three arrests were for assaults on police officers.
Operation Unite's commander, Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford said there were still too many people out drinking to excess.
“Until people start getting the message, we’ll continue to target licensed premises, we’ll continue to target excessive alcohol consumption, and we’ll continue to put people before the courts,” he said.
“(However) Police cannot arrest our way out of this problem. People have to change. We will run Operation Unite, but at the same time we are sending a message that we want people to take responsibility for what they do.”
Fielke said Operation Unite had again demonstrated is the effectiveness of high visibility policing and called on the new NSW Government to consider allocating funds to ‘hot spots’ and local commands to continue the high visibility strategy.
“For too long the previous Government played politics, using increased regulations and media announcements to create the illusion of doing something, while on the ground the resources lacked the investment to deliver the outcome necessary,” she said.
“The Police Commissioner and his officers need to be praised for their high visibility strategy.
“Perhaps reducing the enormous compliance divisions of the public service who generate a trail of red tape not outcomes, and re-allocating the budgets to Local Area Commands and police can reduce even further anti-social behaviour and deliver the needed change in drinking culture required for the minority."
The crackdown involves a host of specialist units to assist Local Area Commands, including Mounted Police, Marine Area Command, Alcohol Licensing Enforcement Command (ALEC), Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS), Dog Squad, Highway Patrol, Commuter Crime Unit, Operational Support Group and Aviation Support Branch.
The final, cumulative results for the two-day operation in NSW were:
- Police arrested 563 people and charged them with a total of 830 offences relating to alcohol-fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour. Last December during Operation Unite police arrested 723 people and charged them with a total of 1314 offences.
- Police laid 12 charges for assault police and 26 charges for resist arrest. Last December during Operation Unite police charged laid 24 people for assault police and 44 charges for resist arrest.
- Police charged 47 people with assault. Last December during Operation Unite police charged 81 people with assault.
- Police conducted 32,485 random breath tests and booked 207 motorists for drink-driving across the state. 23 people were charged with driving whilst disqualified. Last December during Operation Unite police conducted 37,876 random breath tests and booked 276 motorists for drink-driving across the state. 36 people were charged with driving whilst disqualified.
Police conducted 4799 business inspections and detected a total of 299 licensing breaches and 18 security breaches. Last December during Operation Unite police conducted 4436 business inspections and detected a total of 301 licensing breaches and 16 security breaches.
Region statistics for the operation:
- South West Metropolitan Region Arrests 103 Charges 123
- North West Metropolitan Region Arrests 83 Charges 111
- Central Metropolitan Region Arrests 102 Charges 157
- Northern Region Arrests 89 Charges 165
- Southern Region Arrests 89 Charges 148
- Western Region Arrests 40 Charges 74
- Commuter Crime Unit Arrests 48 Charges 44
- Other units Arrests 9 Charges 8
TOTAL Arrests 563 Charges 830