Boozy streets of shame

By Kieran Nash, Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

Part-naked strippers inside Calendar Girls could be seen from the Pitt St footpath. Photo / Supplied
Part-naked strippers inside Calendar Girls could be seen from the Pitt St footpath. Photo / Supplied

Almost half of Aucklanders don't feel safe in the city at night - and public drunkenness and disorder is being blamed.

A report to council has highlighted public unease, after the number of liquor ban breaches tripled in just five years.

Early yesterday morning, police and council officers raided nine of the worst trouble-spots across central Auckland, to check licences and crack down on unruly behaviour.

They focused on Queen St, Karangahape Rd and Albert St. Police said they had arrested and charged a number of people for various offences.

The raids coincided with the "VIP opening" of the new Calendar Girls strip club on K Rd, where part-naked strippers on the stage were clearly visible from the street.

The street is Auckland's busiest in the wee small hours, with pubs and clubs from one end to the other. About 5am, a 40-year-old man was found on the street with serious injuries; police are appealing for witnesses.

Across the country, experts are warning that alcohol laws need more than "tinkering" with if New Zealand is going to come close to reducing its shameful alcohol-related harm statistics.

There are 200 alcohol-fueled assaults every day, nationwide, and 1000 alcohol-related deaths each year, half due to road deaths, assaults and acute injuries, the other half associated with diseases directly caused by drinking.

In Auckland, community leaders expressed concern that 41 per cent of Auckland residents say in the Quality of Life Survey that they are scared to go out after dark.

They say booze is too easy to buy on Auckland's streets: liquor ban breaches have increased from 1306 in 2006 to 3735 last year.

Auckland councillor George Wood, chair of the council's community safety forum, said safety in Auckland's city centres was a real concern, but the issue was subjective - the more people thought they were unsafe, the less safe the streets became.

"Things like drunkenness - it's not seen as an offence to be liquored up on the streets."

He said the large number of off-licences did not help the situation. Auckland City had more liquor ban breaches than the Counties Manukau and Waitemata districts combined, but its total was down on last year.

Police Inspector Andrew Coster said alcohol-related issues were a key priority for policing attention.

"Some of the problems associated with this include alcohol-related disorder and other criminal offending."

He said a clear majority of people indicated that they felt fairly safe or very safe in their city centre.

Police were focusing on being highly visible in main locations at peak times to prevent violence and disorder, and working with bars to reduce problems. Coster said police would increase their presence in the central city for the Rugby World Cup, but their alcohol strategies were long-term and not connected with the tournament.

Auckland Transport have launched a new alcohol awareness campaign targeting sports players.

- Herald on Sunday

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