Central Auckland has long been a dodgy place at night, particularly on Friday and Saturday. And, as the Herald on Sunday has repeatedly reported, the mean streets have turned a good deal meaner in recent months.
Inner-city residents and our own staff have witnessed scenes of degrading drunkenness and violence. Broadcaster Martyn Bradbury, who has been living in the CBD for 20 years, told the Herald that he regularly sees groups of "very drunk" young men actively looking for fights.
The statistics bear him out: public order offences in Central Auckland soared by 27.1 per cent last year and the 4237 incidents included nearly 1000 liquor-ban breaches, as well as charges of disorderly behaviour, wilful damage and urinating in the street.
The impression this creates for tourists staying in the upscale hotels in the centre of the city is too hideous to contemplate. What stories must they tell when they go home of how the streets of Auckland compare with those of New York or London?
The mayhem has prompted the police and the Auckland Council to create a local alcohol policy under which laws will be tightened and availability of booze restricted. This is all well and good, but the policy awaits the passage of the Alcohol Reform Bill through Parliament. We say the time for action is now.
The British television reality show Coppers, which recently followed police as they dealt with drunken yobs in the streets of English cities, provides a good lead. Police need no further excuse to launch a "shock and awe" assault on yobboes.
Drinking in public in the CBD is already banned by council bylaws, so police have the authority to come down hard on people "pre-loading" before going into licensed premises. Simply being drunk in public is not an offence, but a drunk who is a public nuisance may be arrested for "disturbing the peace".
Let the police spend a few weekends taking a very literal view of that phrase. Then let them be backed up by a judiciary exercising zero tolerance for drunkards' rights. That way the city can again become a pleasant place to spend an evening.