There is an old joke that says that an Australian’s definition of a drinking problem is being in a situation where you can’t get a drink. This reflects Australia’s well-established reputation for being a community where the consumption of alcohol, frequently at excessive and harmful levels, is associated with many forms of entertainment and participation in social events. In other words, the association between alcohol consumption and the enjoyment of social activity is a deeply embedded cultural phenomenon.
However, the evidence relating to the range of individual and social harms associated with alcohol misuse is strong. In 2007, one in four Australians were a victim of alcohol-related verbal abuse, 13 percent were put in fear and 4.5 percent of Australians aged 14 years or older had been physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol (AIHW 2008). The rates of physical and verbal abuse by a person affected by alcohol are more than twice the rate for other drug types. Alcohol-related crime and disorder also has a significant adverse impact upon the perceptions of safety among the broader community.
At the same time, Australia also has a substantial reputation for developing and implementing innovative policy approaches to trying to reduce the harms associated with excessive alcohol use and violence in particular. Many of these initiatives have been focused on regulatory responses that target licensed premises and liquor outlets. Licensed premises are a high-risk setting for alcohol-related violence, with a large proportion of assaults occurring in or within very close proximity to hotels and nightclubs. Furthermore, both patrons and staff of licensed premises are at a heightened risk of becoming involved in a violent incident compared with other locations.
Over the years, police and liquor regulatory authorities, often in partnership with liquor licensees, have committed significant effort and resources to efforts to improve the overall safety of drinking venues and the overall amenity of the nearby community. Unfortunately, often what has been missing from such efforts has been any systematic assessment of their relative effectiveness and methods for sharing the lessons learned.
This report is part of an attempt to redress this knowledge deficit. Undertaken in close partnership with Australian Capital Territory Policing (ACTP), the project was a detailed study of the effectiveness of a series of policing measures implemented by the ACTP over several months to reduce and prevent alcohol-related violence in and around licensed premises and entertainment precincts in the ACT.
As with similar studies previously conducted here and overseas, the project found mixed results in relation to effectiveness. However, the project was able to help identify and explain what things were working and why, thereby providing a series of evidence-based recommendations for future policing in this area, many of which it is pleasing to note have already been adopted by ACTP.
This Australian Institute of Criminology would like to acknowledge ACT Policing and their partnership in undertaking this project. Without the assistance of ACT Policing, this project would not have been possible.
The Australian Institute of Criminology would also like to acknowledge those licensees who participated throughout various stages of the project. Their participation demonstrates that the industry is also committed to addressing alcohol-related problems in the Australian Capital Territory.