Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Big trouble in Jekyll and Hyde city

Friends playfight while taking a break from clubbing during Easter weekend on Karangahape Rd. Photo / Bradley Ambrose
Friends playfight while taking a break from clubbing during Easter weekend on Karangahape Rd. Photo / Bradley Ambrose

Public order offences in central Auckland soared by a staggering 27.1 per cent last year.

The significant rise - totalling 4237 incidents - was due largely to nearly 1000 liquor ban breaches, new police figures show. Other crimes included disorderly behaviour, wilful damage and urinating in the street.

The Herald on Sunday followed emergency services at party hotspot Karangahape Rd on Thursday to watch them deal with the growing problem. We saw:

* One man being punched by a random passer-by while the victim was playfighting with a mate on the pavement.

* Drunken youths of both sexes yelling and swearing abuse at strangers and being forced by police to empty their booze bottles into gutters.

* A nearby resident who described how he regularly cleans up vomit, blood and broken glass from his apartment block foyer at weekends.

Yesterday, the usual sorry parade of offenders from the night before appeared at the Auckland District Court: a dishevelled 39-year-old unemployed man from Panmure charged with petty theft and breaking an alcohol curfew; a sheepish young man found intoxicated on a late-night bus; others who had breached bail conditions after drinking; some who refused to co-operate with police.

Half of the increase in public order offences was observed over the Rugby World Cup months of September and October.

"There were more police in the city and they were more able to proactively enforce the various liquor bans to contribute to the prevention and minimisation of the harm caused by alcohol-related offending,"Auckland district commander Superintendent Mike Clement said.

But one man, who moved to an apartment complex just off Karangahape Rd three months ago after living on Auckland lifestyle blocks for many years, is appalled at the weekend drunken carnage.

"Yesterday I looked out my window at 7am and saw two drunk men fighting in the road," said the father-of-two in his 40s, who was too scared to give his name. "Unbelievably, they then climbed into a car and weaved off.

"Not long after that I discovered the foyer at my flat was covered in vomit so I had to clean it up. On Friday morning, one of my neighbours had to mop up blood from the same spot. If it's not that, then it's broken glass that needs cleared away.

"The city centre is turning into a Jekyll and Hyde place. There are respectable business people, tourists and shoppers during the day, but at night it turns into something very different."

"I have a black belt in martial arts. Otherwise, I wouldn't be going out on my own late at night."

Just a few blocks away, business owners spoke of their disgust at the rise in drunken trouble after dark.

Bosses of some late-night businesses said they were not surprised public order crimes had risen sharply and blamed groups of intoxicated youngsters.

Ali Reza, owner of the late-night Istanbul Kebabs and Pizza outlet in Queen St, said: "I now have to phone the police about my staff being victims of abuse and threatening behaviour by drunks on a weekly basis, sometimes more," he said.

"At weekends, they kick over tables and chairs, throw things at my workers and call them terrible names."

Reza believed there were not enough officers on the streets at peak trouble periods.

"There are plenty of policemen about at the weekends until about 8pm, then they seem to vanish," he said.

"It is drink and drugs that cause these problems and a lot of the kids who are causing trouble look far too young to be out drinking."

Burger King near the foot of Queen St attracts long queues of hungry revellers well into the small hours.

Restaurant manager Katie Batchelor described weekends as a "nightmare"and said she employed two in-store security staff at nights.

"There is a growing number of people between 18 and 25 who are simply out of control with drink and drugs," she said. "The police can only do so much but the city centre is not somewhere I would allow my kids to go to at night."

The Right Track sports bar on Fort St packs in punters all weekend. Manager Hilary Herd said bars were open too late, especially at weekends. "We usually close about 3am and when I open again at 8am I see the human carnage still there from the night before."

Herd said the behaviour of drunken girls worried her most. "A lot of them get absolutely trashed. It is just not a good look to be staggering around drunk at that time in the morning. Anything could happen to them and they can be pretty abusive."

Auckland mayor Len Brown vowed to work with police to tackle the problem. "Aucklanders have a right to walk around their city without having to deal with people under the influence."

- Herald on Sunday

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