Key Points:

The new National Government has promised to double the places in prison drug and alcohol treatment units from 500 to 1000 by 2011, and new Justice Minister Simon Power says he would like to get treatment for more offenders before they reach jail.

He has met drug and alcohol counsellor Roger Brooking twice and professes "considerable sympathy for his view on treatment provision in the Department of Corrections".

"Everything I have read since I have been involved in the law and order job, which is more than three years now, leads me to the view that how we deal with alcohol is going to be a crucial component to reduce the impact of crime economically and socially," he says.

Police Assistant Commissioner Viv Rickard says the police already use the police diversion scheme to refer many offenders to drug and alcohol counselling before they reach court.

"If liquor is an aggravator or part of the causation [of crime], it's just common sense to have people assessed and organise drug and alcohol counselling," he says.

He says the police and the Ministry of Health have been trialling a system of placing mental health and addiction nurses in police watchhouses in Counties-Manukau and Christchurch to talk to offenders arrested on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights about alcohol and drug problems.

In another experiment, Napier police stations have been equipped with leaflets about local treatment providers to see whether that has an effect without providing on-the-spot nurses.

Mr Rickard says police are also continuing to review the laws on drunkenness, including the possibility of restoring an offence of being drunk in a public place.

"We are not satisfied that just making it an offence is going to make a difference," he says.

"But there does need to be a look at our legislation, particularly in relation to public places."