An Emergency Situation has been declared in Alice Springs, following two violent altercations on Wednesday, vindicating concerns about understaffing of police and Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors (PALIs).

Yesterday afternoon, a licensed premises was the site of a dispute, wherein a group of people damaged the building. Police attended the scene and made a number of arrests. Later that day, at around 7pm, police were called to an address at Sadadeen, where they encountered about 150 people engaging in violent conduct. Police allege that a car was set alight, as well as a mattress in a nearby house, and five people were arrested for carrying weapons and starting the two fires.

The Emergency Situation declaration allows the NT government to institute a 6am to 6pm curfew for people under 18 years of age, which will be enforced by police. The curfew will last for a 14-day period, encompassing the Easter public holidays and school holidays.

Minister for Police Brent Potter said that further police forces are being sent to address the issues in Alice Springs.

“We are responding to unacceptable, abhorrent behaviour across Alice Springs. The Territory Safety Division has a 23 strong team in Alice Springs right now conducting operations to apprehend all involved in the unrest. These officers will be supported by another 58 police on their way to Alice Springs right now.

“This is not just a policing issue, we must collaborate with community leaders to keep Alice Springs safe,” he said.

Last year, the government promised more than $14m to address police and PALI understaffing in Alice Springs, funding an additional 30 police officers, 21 PALIs, and 10 security guards. However, Nathan Finn, President, Northern Territory Police Association (NTPA), said that the problem still persists.

“Alice Springs remains critically understaffed and under resourced to deal with the unsustainable levels of harm, violence and crime. Despite an additional 14 recruits starting in the last fortnight, Alice Springs remains 22 officers short of the 30 extra police funded by Prime Minister Albanese in January last year,” he said.

The declaration follows growing concern about violence and anti-social behaviour in takeaway liquor outlets due to a critical shortage of PALIs. The majority of Alice Springs PALIs are currently undertaking further training in Darwin to become Constables, leaving the town with only two operational PALIs. Other PALI shifts are being filled by Police Constables, usually on overtime.

Amid efforts by the NT Government to increase police presence, Michael Waters, CEO, Retail Drinks Australia reaffirmed the importance of PALIs.

“While we welcomed the NT Government’s response to this issue by increasing its police presence in the region, we do not believe that this has solved the problems that removing the PALIs has created,” he said.

“We urge the NT Government to immediately reinstate PALIs at all stores in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine and ensure future additional training is appropriately managed such that there is no gap in PALI coverage.”

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