North booze blitz nets 22 arrests

By Abi Thomas

A total of 22 arrests were made and two Bay of Islands licensed premises were busted selling alcohol to minors in a transtasman police operation over the weekend.

Operation Unite resulted in more than 1000 people being arrested and hundreds more charged with a variety of offences across New Zealand and Australia, in a crackdown on alcohol-related crime. There were 300 arrests in New Zealand.

The 22 arrests in Northland were made across the region by 30 officers dedicated to the operation, which ran from 6pm to 6am on Friday and Saturday nights.

All were related to alcohol and charges included assault, breach of the liquor ban, disorder and driving with excess breath alcohol. One person was also arrested for failing to stop, dangerous driving, driving while forbidden and being in possession of utensils for drugs.

Northland road policing manager Inspector Murray Hodson said the figures were typical for a weekend in Northland and highlighted the huge resources and time police put in to dealing with alcohol-related crime. Nationally, it uses up 20 per cent of police resources.

"It impacts on our ability as police to respond to other crimes ... [and] the more serious the offending is, we're more unable to respond to other crimes."

Mr Hodson said at least a third of recorded violence offences and family violence incidents in 2009 and 2010 were committed where the offender had consumed alcohol before committing the offence.

"Alcohol is also a significant factor in public disorder offences and fatal or serious injury crashes. This is unacceptable and there are many people in our communities suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse."

A controlled purchase operation in the Bay of Islands as part of Operation Unite saw 25 licensed premises visited by teenagers under the age of 18 who attempted to buy alcohol.

Two of the premises were prepared to sell to the teenagers, which Mr Hodson said was concerning. Those premises have been referred to the Liquor Licensing Authority, and face having their liquor licences suspended or cancelled.

Mr Hodson said as the holiday season approached, a top priority for Northland police was reducing alcohol-related harm - which wasn't just a police issue.

"It's society, individuals, family and friends who all have a part to play."

- Northern Advocate

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