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A review of policing strategies in the Australian Capital Territory

While the AIC commenced this project with the intention of working with ACTP to develop and implement a range of evidence-based strategies, it became apparent that there were already a number of strategies planned for the 2009–10 summer period (ie between October 2009 and March 2010). Therefore, the AIC and ACTP elected to focus the current evaluation on reviewing the implementation and where possible the effectiveness of strategies that were designed to address problems in Civic during the intervention period. These strategies can be broadly categorised into the following key areas:

  • front-line policing, which involved general duties officers patrolling entertainment precincts and providing a visible police presence during peak periods for alcohol service and consumption;
  • the RLLP, a four-stage project developed and implemented by the ACTP Crime Prevention that was designed to educate, facilitate and enforce responsible liquor licensing within the Civic entertainment precinct;
  • monitoring, regulation and enforcement of licensed premises in partnership with ORS; and
  • intelligence gathering and analysis to identify problematic locations and premises, which was designed to help inform front-line policing, enforcement operations and the RLLP.

The implementation of each component of the ACTP approach is examined in detail below. A number of factors that have impacted upon some or all of these strategies have also been highlighted.

Front-line policing

Front-line policing refers to the role of the ACTP Beats team, which consist of ‘general duties’ officers patrolling entertainment precincts (primarily the Civic precinct) and providing a visible presence during the peak periods for alcohol service and consumption. In addition to regular patrols, ACTP were also involved in a larger saturation-type operation as part of a national initiative to address alcohol-related crime.

Beats team activity

Proactive strategies employed by front-line police consisted largely of walking around and patrolling the entertainment precinct in small groups, conducting occasional walkthroughs of licensed venues and leaving police vehicles parked in highly visible areas. These ‘beats teams’ were also responsible for identifying and apprehending offenders, and responding to incidents when they were detected by officers or reported by members of the community (including bar and security staff). Between November 2009 and February 2010, resources were redirected to enable an additional Beats team to patrol the Civic entertainment precinct to increase the visible presence of police during peak times for alcohol-related crime and antisocial behaviour.

Interviews with both ACTP and licensees indicated that they were largely supportive of the current approach, which combined patrols with officers congregating at known trouble spots during peak periods, largely because this enabled police to respond quickly to incidents when they occurred. The placement of officers appeared to be based largely upon an understanding of where incidents were most likely to occur.

Intervening in violent behaviour to quickly reduce the scale and severity of incidents, apprehend offenders, render aid to victims and contact emergency assistance is an important priority for ACTP in the Civic entertainment area. However, both police and licensees acknowledged in the field interviews that the presence of police had little deterrent effect on patron behaviour. Given the effect of alcohol on patrons’ inhibitions and their behaviour, the presence of police appeared to have little impact on their behaviour and willingness to engage in antisocial or violent behaviour. This is evidenced by the number of incidents that occur within the vicinity of licensed premises in Civic on weekends, despite the presence of the Civic Beats team.

The challenges associated with police efforts to influence patron behaviour were acknowledged throughout the evaluation period. In addition to normal arrest powers, ACTP Beats teams have at their disposal two additional methods of responding to incidents of patron violence or antisocial behaviour; Criminal Infringement Notices (CINs) and move on powers. CINs were introduced as on the spot fines for minor street offences and were designed to deter antisocial behaviour among patrons. They are limited to minor offences, including defacing public/private premises (eg graffiti), urinating in public, failing to comply with a noise abatement direction and for consuming liquor in a prescribed public place (ACT Policing nd). Move on powers, established under the Crimes Prevention Powers Act 1998 (ACT), enable police officers to direct a person to leave a public place (for up to 6 hours) if there are reasonable grounds for the officer to believe that the person has engaged, or is likely to engage, in violent behaviour. Failure to move on may result in a penalty of up to $200.

The AIC was not provided with data on the use of CINs or move-on notices during the evaluation period. Data was available for CINs but only for the latter months of the evaluation, therefore, it was decided that this data would not be examined. Anecdotal reports from some officers suggested that there were different levels of understanding among officers as to the options available to them and the correct use of these measures, and that views as to the effectiveness of these measures were mixed. For example, some officers suggested that it was difficult to direct intoxicated people to ‘move-on’ due to their impaired capacity, which impacted upon their ability to understand the directions and consequences for failing to comply. Others felt that these move on powers should be used more extensively than they were and should be extended to people engaging in non-violent disorderly conduct. Similarly, some officers felt that CINs were difficult to issue due to their understanding of the requirements to prove an offence such as urinating in public had occurred. The deterrent effect of either response on people who were affected by alcohol was also questioned.

Some licensees, including those perceived by police as being responsible for a disproportionate level of alcohol-related problems in Civic, suggested that they would support police being given more powers of enforcement directed at patron behaviour:

I feel sorry for the police at the moment. They are told to do something about the problem but their hands are tied. All they seem to be able to do is say move on, move on, move on. It’s not teaching anyone not to do the same next weekend. We have a 5% group of people [causing the problems] if there was a situation where they were given a monetary fine then you might not have this [type of behaviour recurring] (Licensee personal communication 2010).

A manager of another licensed premise commented:

I find it difficult [to think] that police could change patron drinking behaviour when there is no onus on the patron, so how can you hope to change patron behaviour when the legislation only allows policing to do what is currently done. There needs to be some sort of consequence for patrons (Licensee personal communication 2010).

It is perhaps not surprising that licensees and their employees supported increased enforcement powers for front-line police to respond to incidents of violence and antisocial behaviour among patrons. Conversely, police were generally supportive of stronger enforcement activity directed at those licensed premises that repeatedly breached provisions relating to the service of alcohol to intoxicated patrons and felt that strategies targeting premises rather than individual patrons would prove most cost effective. This is particularly important given the evidence, both from this research and previous studies, that a small proportion of premises are responsible for a disproportionate amount of alcohol-related problems (eg see Donnelly & Briscoe 2005). Nevertheless, there is some evidence to suggest that there is scope to provide additional training to officers working within the Beats team to improve their understanding of the various options available to them to respond to violent or antisocial behaviour by patrons.

Operation Unite

Over one weekend in December 2009 (11–12), ACTP participated in a national campaign known as Operation Unite, which involved a police ‘crackdown’ on alcohol-related crime and antisocial behaviour across Australia and New Zealand. This involved ACTP increasing the number of police across the Civic entertainment precinct, in order to provide a high profile and visible police presence. The operation also targeted drink driving through random breath testing and increased traffic patrols.

Interviews with ACTP officers suggested a high level of support for saturation-type operations like Operation Unite. Police were generally supportive of high-visibility policing, suggesting that the increased police presence was more likely to deter poor patron behaviour and overcome some of the limitations of Beat team activity described above (despite the issues associated with managing intoxicated patrons). Licensees interviewed as part of this project were also supportive of this approach.

However, most ACTP officers consulted recognised that such operations were not sustainable over the longer term due to resource constraints and that any deterrent effect of one-off strategies would not be sustained over time. To be effective, these types of operations would need to be conducted at more regular intervals—the cost of which may prove prohibitive—and be supported by other strategies.

Responsible Liquor Licensing Project

The RLLP was a four-stage project developed and implemented by ACTP Crime Prevention from September 2009–January 2010. The four key stages in this project were as follows:

  • Phase one—education and consultation;
  • Phase two—workshop for licensees and key stakeholders;
  • Phase three—pre-arranged visits to licensed venues; and
  • Phase four—enforcement of liquor licensing legislation.

The purpose of the RLLP was to educate, facilitate and enforce responsible liquor licensing within the Civic entertainment precinct.

Addressing issues related to the effective management of licensed premises, problematic drinking behaviour and other alcohol-related social issues is a complex undertaking and requires a coordinated response from multiple agencies. ACTP Crime Prevention adopted this policy for the RLLP, particularly during phase two (see below). Over the 2009–10 summer period, ACTP Crime Prevention made a concerted effort through the RLLP to re-establish communication and relationships with licensees in the Australian Capital Territory and to reduce alcohol-related violence in the entertainment precincts of Civic and Kingston/Manuka. This involved a series of workshops, visits with licensees and intelligence-led enforcement activity.

Phase one: Education and consultation

This phase served a dual purpose. First, to contact licensees in a variety of forms (face-to-face, in writing etc) and provide information regarding their obligations with respect to liquor licensing regulations and advice to licensees on the role of police and how best to minimise the risk of problems in and around their premise. Second, there was a plan to support other stakeholders with related interests (eg ACT Department of Health) to target younger patrons with a ‘safe drinking’ message and campaign.

The first aspect of phase one of the RLLP was relatively straightforward. It involved initiating contact with licensees and discussing issues surrounding liquor licensing and their premises. Unfortunately, the nature and frequency of initial contact made with licensees is unknown as no such records were provided in the ACTP project report. For the same reason, it is unclear if the written contact was separate to the invitation for the phase two workshops.

In addition, little is known about what was undertaken during the education phase of the RLLP as there is no mention of this aspect of the project in the ACTP report. There are no clear details of how this ‘safe drinking’ message and campaign was delivered or through what means. In addition, no details of relevant key stakeholders such as the ACT Department of Health being involved were reported. In fact, ACTP Crime Prevention’s own evaluation report for the project combined phases one and two.

Phase two: Workshops for licensees and key stakeholders

In November 2009, ACTP ran three half-day workshops involving representatives of licensed premises from the Canberra region. These workshops were attended by operational police, ORS inspectors, licensed premise owners, managers and security, and representatives from the Australian Hotel Association (AHA), Canberra Cabs and Action Buses. In total there were 70 participants from 45 organisations across the Australian Capital Territory. Attendance at these workshops by licensees was generally good, with most invited licensees in attendance. However, representation from some larger licensed venues could have been stronger.

One important purpose of these workshops was to re-establish positive dialogue with licensees before the summer period. This approach was taken to address and resolve any issues of concern between licensing bodies, licensees and police. The workshops were viewed as a positive step forward, particularly as previous channels of communication with these stakeholders were limited. It also enabled licensees to voice their concern with certain aspects of the legislation and the manner in which the legislation was sometimes enforced by ORS. Overall, most licensees were happy with the content of the workshops, with many indicating that they would like to see them become a more permanent fixture. For example, as one licensee noted, ‘the need for consultation between agencies and licensed premises is very important’ (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Another security manager highlighted the value of ongoing communication, not limited to a workshop format:

It’s always good to have a police presence, but it would also be better if they had something like those workshops more regularly; but I guess it would be good if the manager, owner and head of security could just sit down with police every now and then and nut out any issues (Security personal communication 2010).

These types of comments from licensed premises owners, licensees, managers and security staff demonstrated the importance of this police strategy. Regardless of whether this strategy had any direct impact on the antisocial alcohol-related problems in Civic, it served an important function in improving communication so that solutions could be developed collaboratively to address problems. As noted, feedback from licensees suggested that these workshops were an important means of initiating improved communication between police and licensed premise management and staff, sharing ideas relating to common problems and passing on important information about relevant legislation and regulations. These findings indicate that these workshops, or other similar approaches to improving communication and information flow, should be continued.

Phase three: Pre-arranged visits to licensed premises

In addition to the workshops, ACTP and ORS also made (pre-arranged) visits to licensed premises to conduct compliance inspections. ACTP Crime Prevention and ORS visited 39 licensed premises as part of this phase. The visits were also used to hold a face-to-face meeting with each individual licensee to further discuss licensing issues and concerns for the remaining summer months.

This phase of the project contributed to further improving the relationship between police, ORS and licensees. Licensees were provided with another opportunity to raise their concerns with the existing legislation and its subsequent enforcement. Police were also able to explain to licensees the role of the ACTP Civic Beats team and the challenges faced by these officers. There was support for this approach among licensees:

I think there has been good ground made with visits from liaison officers from within the police force. Just coming out and having a chat to us about the issues we might be having means there are open lines of communication, so if we have a problem whether it be an individual or a group of individuals we can work on strategies to try and resolve this problem (Licensee personal communication 2010).

This type of honest dialogue between licensees, ORS and police further builds on the positive relationship that needs to exist if antisocial issues and alcohol-related problems in the Civic area are to be addressed with any success. Overall, licensees seemed to appreciate this phase of the project because it provided an opportunity to discuss matters with ACTP Crime Prevention and ORS.

Phase four: Enforcement of liquor licensing legislation

ACTP Crime Prevention and ORS conducted the final enforcement phase of the RLLP on 11 and 12 December, coinciding with Operation Unite. Throughout the course of this phase, there were 43 inspections of licensed premises conducted, resulting in 12 breaches of the Liquor Act and the apprehension of four underage drinkers, in addition to other apprehensions made as part of Operation Unite.

ACTP Crime Prevention reported that further ongoing scheduled enforcement activity after the weekend of Operation Unite was originally planned and would have been beneficial to the program. However, ACTP Crime Prevention also reported that the availability of resources became an issue with this phase of the program and consequently no follow up inspections were conducted. There was limited evidence to suggest that inspections were targeted at problematic premises based on data collected by police, particularly as this phase was undertaken as part of a larger operation focused on the wider entertainment precinct. However, those premises known to and identified by police as being associated with alcohol-related problems (based on recent experience) were targeted. Determining the specific impact of this particular phase of the project is difficult because it was conducted on the same weekend as Operation Unite.

Overall, there was some evidence from ACTP and other stakeholders that specific phases of the RLLP were successfully implemented, while other phases had not taken place as planned. In particular, there appeared to be concerns about a lack of knowledge among police of the evidentiary procedures necessary for enforcing legislation breaches by licensees. This, combined with resource constraints, impacted upon the capacity of ACTP Crime Prevention to implement the enforcement phase of the project as it was originally planned.

There are similarities between the ACTP Crime Prevention project and liquor accords operating in a number of other jurisdictions, particularly in terms of the focus on communication and information sharing. However, the project differed in that there were no voluntary local policies or codes of conduct regarding the management of licensed premises and sale of alcohol agreed to by premise operators. Nevertheless, there have been a number of evaluations of these accords (as well as community-based initiatives overseas which involved a similar approach), and a growing body of evidence that could be used to inform the ACTP approach (NDRI 2007). In particular (and as was highlighted in previous sections of this report), approaches such as liquor accords are most effective when they are supported by strong enforcement of liquor licensing by regulatory authorities (NDRI 2007), highlighting the importance of enforcement phase as part of future initiatives.

Monitoring, regulation and enforcement directed at licensed premises

This component of the ACTP approach included enforcement operations targeted at licensed premises and delivered in partnership with the ORS. These enforcement operations are standard inspections conducted throughout the year as part of routine work undertaken by both ACTP and ORS. It was therefore undertaken separately to phase four of the RLLP. For the most part, ORS liquor licensing inspectors take primary responsibility for conducting compliance checks in licensed premises. During peak periods for alcohol service and consumption (Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights), ORS inspectors are accompanied by ACTP officers.

Enforcement campaigns are designed to be unpredictable and irregular, with little or no warning to licensees and premise managers that compliance checks will be taking place.Both ACTP and ORS inspectors reported that a sustained campaign targeted at premises during busy trading periods had the capacity to deliver noticeable improvements in compliance with liquor licensing conditions.

The process for prosecuting non-compliance was reported by police and the ORS as being both complex and time-consuming. Where issues were identified, ORS made a record of the problem and indicated that they would compile a report on the breaches identified. A decision would then be made by ORS as to whether the licensee should be prosecuted or warned about the breach and then allow licensees a period of time in which to rectify the problem. Serious breaches, such as allowing large numbers of underage persons into a premise, would in most instances lead to prosecution. However, penalties for breaches of the Liquor Act were considered inadequate given the turnover of some of the larger (and often more problematic) premises. As such, these may not act as a significant deterrent to future offending.

The inability of ORS or ACTP to issue immediate ‘on the spot’ infringement notices to licensees for major breaches (such as blocked exits, underage patrons on premises) was perceived to limit the ability of ORS and ACTP to deter this type of behaviour. Similarly, the current lack of mandatory staff training for responsible service of alcohol makes it very difficult to prosecute licensees or bar staff for breaching the Liquor Act with respect to RSA.

The AIC research team observed that the presence of ORS liquor licensing inspectors appeared to have a more noticeable effect on the behaviour of security staff and bar managers than the presence of ACTP officers. When the inspectors were present, security staff were more active in checking patrons’ personal identification, managing patrons waiting to enter licensed venues (such as refusing entry to those visibly affected by alcohol) and in maintaining the cleanliness of the area within the immediate vicinity of their premise. This may reflect a perception among bar managers and security staff of the relative powers and associated consequences of action by ORS inspectors. This suggests that there is benefit in developing and sustaining a coordinated intervention strategy involving officers from both ACTP and ORS working collaboratively.

Throughout 2009–10, ORS (joined by ACTP) increased the number of routine inspection visits to licensed premises. Some licensees confirmed this increased presence, with one licensee suggesting that:

[f]ive years ago you would maybe see them [ORS] four times a year whereas I think I have already seen them six or seven times this year [early May] (Licensee personal communication 2010).

However, the exact nature and frequency of operations targeting licensed premises in entertainment precincts in Civic and Manuka/Kingston is unknown as this information was not provided to the AIC. The precise nature and frequency of compliance inspections (involving police) is also unknown. There is anecdotal evidence that inspections have been increasing since the recent summer period, but whether anything specific is being targeted, such as fake identification or underage patrons, cannot be determined, nor can the exact frequency of these inspections.

There were different views regarding the focus of the enforcement activity undertaken by the ORS in the regulation of licensed premises in the Australian Capital Territory. It was apparent that the priorities of ORS differed to those of ACTP. For example, while police perceive the service of alcohol to intoxicated patrons (and related issues such as antisocial patron behaviour in and around licensed premises) as the priority, the ORS appeared to prioritise matters such as underage patrons, building codes and safety hazards (such as blocked fire exits and capacity loading). Both patron and building-focused issues are important and need to be enforced; however, the findings point to a lack of mutual understanding of the different roles and responsibilities of ACTP and the ORS. A clear understanding of these can lead to a more coordinated and effective enforcement response.

To further emphasise this point, data supplied to the AIC by ORS indicates that since the beginning of 2008, most of the infringements by licensees were related to either building code breaches or underage drinking on the premises. The data supplied by ORS covers details of the types of breaches made by ACT licensees and the subsequent penalties from April 2000 to September 2008. These data provide a useful background to the types of breaches by ACT licensees that are pursued by ORS and the types of penalties that are enforced.

Other infringements documented by ORS targeted the environment of the premises or breaches of structural regulations (eg blocked fire exits, broken windows and doors, and overloading breaches). Licensees also reported that ORS targeted building code matters, with some licensees indicating that they were cited for non-compliant door fixtures. While the ORS had different priorities to police, they did on occasion target licensees for serving intoxicated patrons, which was noted by some licensees during the fieldwork. Both the police and ORS have highlighted the difficulty in pursuing breaches by licensed premises with ACAT, which also may explain the focus of ORS activities.

However, it is difficult to determine the precise level and nature of enforcement activity delivered by police and ORS that target licensed premises. This is because of several data limitations, including an absence of data that can be used to assess:

  • the number and type of breaches by each licensed premises in the Australian Capital Territory over the past several years;
  • the exact number of warnings (formal or informal) issued for minor breaches of licensing provisions; and
  • the number of police referrals to ORS relating to breaches of licensing provisions.

Despite these data limitations, it was evident that there have been a number of instances where licensees have breached regulations and ORS (and police) have enforced the appropriate penalties. For example, during the first nine months of 2008 there were 13 licensees where allegations of breaches were recorded—in three cases the breach was not proven and the case was dismissed, while for the remaining 10 cases, penalties were enforced with most involving infringement notices ranging from $250 to $3,000. In a number of instances, half of this amount was reserved and held for 12 months and taken if there was a subsequent breach during this time. Rarely, licenses were suspended for 28 days. More recent figures, including from the 2009–10 summer period are unavailable, although one licensee is known to have closed after a series of breaches in August 2009. Overall, the number of prosecutions and infringement notices was not substantial, taking into consideration the obvious signs of patron intoxication in and around premises observed by the research team, although these numbers may have increased in 2010 with an apparent increase in the number of ORS inspections being conducted.

Intelligence gathering and analysis

Intelligence gathering and analysis is an important component of the ACTP strategy and helps to inform other components of the overall approach to reduce alcohol-related problems. Intelligence-led policing refers to the

…application of criminal intelligence analysis as an objective decision-making tool in order to facilitate crime reduction and prevention through effective policing strategies and external partnership projects drawn from an evidential base (Ratcliffe 2003: 3).

Targeted, intelligence-led and proactive policing of licensed premises has been shown to effectively reduce the number of alcohol-related incidents in and around licensed venues (Doherty & Roche 2003).

It is important for police to develop intelligence gathering and analysis practices and systems. This not only helps to identify problematic licensed premises and hot spots for alcohol-related violence, but also assists in the evaluation of police responses (Doherty & Roche 2003). The development of reliable intelligence systems relating to alcohol-related incidents, which helps to inform the targeted enforcement of liquor licensing legislation, is an integral component of any policing strategy that attempts to reduce alcohol-related harms (Nicholas 2006).

Mapping alcohol-related crime enhances the ability of police to proactively target problem premises and facilitates the allocation of resources. Benefits of this approach include:

  • establishing an evidence base to inform operational decisions and enhancing the deployment of resources and supporting submissions for altered resource allocation;
  • measuring the effectiveness of strategies targeting problem locations and the effectiveness of enforcement activities;
  • assisting prosecutions against licensed venue operators and for submissions related to liquor license applications, variations and revocations;
  • gathering evidence to inform policy development or amendment and legislative change; and
  • assisting in the reduction of alcohol-related crime and associated harms (Doherty & Roche 2003).

ACTP Intelligence assists to inform operational decision-making with respect to the distribution of resources within entertainment precincts, including the Civic Beats Team. Data from PROMIS, ACTP Performance, Evaluation and Review Team, ORS and AIC place of last drink forms (discussed below) were routinely analysed and reported to senior police during the evaluation period.

However, there did appear to be some overlap in terms of data analyses, with different sections of ACTP appearing to request or undertake analysis of the same data, but for their own purposes. This suggests that there is some scope for increased coordination of requests for information and analyses and improved dissemination of the results or findings from this analysis to relevant sections. There are also limitations with respect to the availability of data on alcohol-related incidents. Issues associated with identifying whether an offence was alcohol-related, whether an offence took place inside or within the vicinity of a license premise, or where a person may have consumed alcohol to the point of intoxication prior to the offence limits the capacity of ACTP to effectively target resources. There was some evidence that the Beats Team, the RLLP and enforcement operations directed at licensed premises could be more effectively targeted at those premises more likely to be associated with alcohol-related problems if there was more reliable data to inform these operations and support the action taken against specific premises.

Implementation and completion of last drink forms

Given the issues outlined above, the AIC worked closely with ACTP to develop a mechanism for recording and analysing information on place of last drink for alcohol-related offences. Information collected via these forms was designed to assist the ACTP intelligence section by providing additional information necessary to direct operational resources.

The AIC was able to draw upon experience in other jurisdictions in developing this tool. Several intelligence data collection systems have been developed for use in determining high-risk licensed premises and hotspot areas (Doherty & Roche 2003; McIlwain & Homel 2009). In particular, a number of Australian jurisdictions, including New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as New Zealand, have developed intelligence gathering tools for alcohol-related incidents, including place of last drink surveys. These surveys enable police to record information on persons of interest and/or victims involved in alcohol-related incidents, including the location and time of their last consumed alcoholic drink and the degree of intoxication.

Some of these systems, such as the NSW Alcohol Linking Project, have involved collaboration between police and other agencies. The Alcohol Linking Project aimed to increase knowledge and provide for the collection of data on those licensed premises associated with alcohol-related harms. This program has been incorporated into routine police practices, with data being recorded for all alcohol-related incidents attended by police. Feedback is then provided to licensees on the number of incidences related to their premises, which they then use in discussion with police to improve management practices. The program also aimed to improve data quality and provide training and education to police officers (McIlwain & Homel 2009).

Similarly, Queensland Police developed the Liquor Enforcement and Proactive Strategy, which focused on gathering and analysing intelligence on alcohol-related violence and disorder around licensed premises. The additional data collected is combined with recorded crime data to identify hot spot locations, informing the targeting of licensed premises inspections and liquor enforcement activities.

As part of this pilot, the ACTP place of last drink form was designed to be completed by officers attending any alcohol-related incident in the Civic area. For this purpose, an alcohol-related incident was defined as an incident attended by police in which the person of interest or victim admitted to consuming any amount of alcohol in the six hours prior to the incident, or where the officer had reasonable evidence to suspect that the person had consumed alcohol in the specified time period (eg the person exhibited some or all of the accepted signs of intoxication, or the incident took place inside or within the immediate vicinity of a licensed premise).

Upon attending an incident, the officer was required to ask the person of interest or victim whether they had consumed alcohol in the past six hours. If the answer was yes, then a Place of Last Drink (PLD) form was completed. If the person was either unable to or refused to answer the officer’s question, then the officer was required to make an assessment as to whether they suspected the person had consumed alcohol in the specified time period, based on the evidence available to them at the time. Examples of reasonable evidence of alcohol consumption included a person showing signs of intoxication or the incident taking place inside or within the immediate vicinity (ie on verge out front) of a licensed premise.

PLD forms were initially trialled for four weeks to identify issues relating to their format, content and administration. Minor modifications were then made to these forms in response to feedback from front-line police, prior to their eventual rollout. The implementation of these forms appeared successful; however, the completion of the forms was inconsistent. While existing data does not permit a valid comparison, particularly as forms were completed for a variety of incidents not always involving an offence, the total number completed suggests that a form was not routinely completed for every alcohol-related incident attended by police.

In total, 325 incidents resulted in a PLD form being completed by police. Ninety percent of incidents involved a person of interest or victim who was assessed by police as being intoxicated. Eighty-three percent of incidents identified a licensed premise as the PLD. Among those incidents where a licensed premise was identified as the PLD, 78 percent of respondents indicated that they had consumed the majority of their alcohol at the premise they consumed their most recent drink. This finding contradicts the assertion made by some licensees that patrons ‘preload’ before entering a licensed premise.

Figure 5 provides an overview of the number of incidents recorded as having taken place within the vicinity of a licensed premise. While individual premises have been de-identified, it is clear that around half of all incidents occurred within the vicinity of one of the largest premises in Civic. The majority of incidents (82%) occurred outside, but within the vicinity of, a licensed premise and the capacity of these forms to identify these premises as either the location of the incident or place of last drink highlights their value to police and licensing authorities.

Figure 5: Alcohol-related incidents recorded within the vicinity of licensed premises, by premise (n)

 figure 5

Note: Each letter in the above chart refers to a licensed premise, de-identified to protect confidentiality

Source: AIC Place of Last Drink database

Figure 6 describes the number of incidents identifying each premise (using the same IDs allocated in the previous Figure) as the PLD. The overall pattern is similar to that in Figure 5. The four premises identified as the most common locations for incidents were also the premises most commonly identified as a PLD. These figures suggest that targeting this relatively small number of premises and developing strategies to reduce the number of alcohol-related incidents associated with them could generate significant reductions in the total number of incidents requiring police involvement.

Figure 6: Incidents in which a licensed premise was identified as the place of last drink, by premise (n)

 figure 6

Note: Each letter in the above chart refers to a licensed premise, de-identified to protect confidentiality. Other premises includes all premises with a single incident during the data collection period

Source: AIC Place of Last Drink database

Overall, the last drink forms developed as part of this project helped to address a gap in the information currently collected by ACTP. There was limited evidence provided to the AIC to suggest the extent to which these data were used to inform policing responses. However, the findings from an analysis of the data undertaken by the AIC was used by ACTP Intelligence in regular reports to senior officers responsible for operational decision-making with respect to the Civic Beats team, as well as being used to inform findings and recommendations as part of the final report on Operation Alanova. There was sufficient evidence to support a continuation of the use of these forms, with a view towards integrating place of last drink data into mainstream data collection and information systems.

Factors impacting upon the operation of ACTP strategies

There were a number of factors observed which impact both on the implementation and effectiveness of the strategies developed by ACTP outlined in this report (front-line policing, RLLP, monitoring, regulation and enforcement, and intelligence gathering and analysis). These factors include:

  • the availability of resources for police;
  • limitations to the existing liquor licensing legislation;
  • police knowledge and understanding of liquor licensing legislation;
  • the availability of operational intelligence and performance monitoring;
  • coordination between different sections of ACTP;
  • collaboration between ACTP and ORS; and
  • the management of licensed premises in the Australian Capital Territory.

These factors, and their impact on strategies implemented during the 2009–10 summer period, are discussed below. Approaches to address (or in some cases enhance) these factors need to be considered as part of future operational strategies targeting licensed premises. The recommendations in the final section of this report have been developed to address these factors.

Availability of resources for police

Throughout the course of this project, police indicated that resourcing posed an ongoing challenge for ACTP in the implementation of any alcohol-related policing strategy. While this anecdotal evidence is an important consideration, the operational, tactical and strategic questions relating to ACTP priorities are likely to be more complex, requiring further supporting research.

However, one consequence of limited resources is that not all policing strategies may be implemented simultaneously. Rather, decisions need to be made around which strategies are likely to achieve the best result and when they should be implemented. This may involve combining ‘one-off’ intensive, saturation-style policing with other less resource intensive interventions, such as lock-outs. For example, hotspot targeting and saturation policing are normally reserved for annual major operations such as Operation Unite or Cobalt. Conversely, one police officer commented that strategies such as lockouts were looked upon favourably as they did not require additional police officers to enforce (ACTP Officer personal communication 2010). When the same officer was asked what challenges police face in attempting to deliver strategies targeted at licensed premises, resources were highlighted as the most important barrier (ACTP Officer personal communication 2010).

Limitations to the existing liquor licensing legislation

The limitations with existing liquor licensing legislation have already been discussed. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile considering the impact of legislation on the capacity of ACTP to effectively implement the strategies reported in this evaluation. At present, current legislation is impacting negatively on front-line policing and monitoring, regulation and enforcement strategies implemented in collaboration with ORS. However, the introduction of a new Liquor Act, expected to take effect in late 2010, should address many of the perceived shortcomings. For example, current legislation only recommends that staff hold an RSA permit. The new act will require staff to hold this. As such, police and ORS may wish to consider inspecting licensed premises RSA qualifications after this new legislation is introduced.

Police knowledge and understanding of liquor licensing legislation

The level of knowledge and understanding among police of the ACT Liquor Act and the role of ACTP in enforcing the Act in the major entertainment precincts, varied considerably and in some instances was poor. For example, during the evaluation there appeared to be some confusion among police staff about the role of ACTP in enforcing relevant sections of the Liquor Licensing Act. Generally, where police identified an issue or problem relating to a particular premise, they referred this matter to ORS to conduct an inspection and compile a report. ORS suggested that as an agent with powers to enforce the Liquor Licensing Act, police had the ability to take action against licensees, although perceived that police had limited capacity to do so.

The Civic Beats team focuses its attention on incidents occurring outside licensed premises; little time is spent conducting inspections inside licensed premises. Indeed, one licensee indicated that sometimes when there are new police on the Beats team, it was apparent that they required time to develop an understanding of the licensed environment (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Another example of this limited knowledge was provided by a police officer who indicated that many police are unaware of the procedures involved when a licensed premise breaches the liquor legislation and a case appears before ACAT. These deficiencies in understanding were in part addressed through the development of a ‘liquor team’ within ACTP, which was implemented in late 2010. However, given the continued role of general duties officers in policing licensed premises and patrons, these issues highlight the importance of additional and ongoing training for officers, particularly when the new legislation is introduced.

Operational intelligence and performance monitoring

The availability of intelligence for both operational decision-making and performance monitoring purposes impacted upon ACTP’s ability to identify problematic locations and premises and to assess the effectiveness of strategies designed to address them. ACTP is endeavouring to improve its operational intelligence in the long term by introducing a flag for identifying alcohol-related offences in PROMIS and through the introduction of PLD forms in partnership with the AIC. This is also being achieved through Operation Alanova, which has involved intelligence gathering around alcohol-related problems in the Civic area over the 2009–10 summer period. The report produced from this operation has taken into consideration previously ignored factors such as the role of external late-night food outlets in the Sydney building (located in Civic) in contributing to antisocial behaviour and alcohol-related problems. The report also concluded that ACTP requires a long-term strategy to deal with the misuse of alcohol and its subsequent impacts on crime and public order.

However, this strategy needs to be sustainable over the long term and the relative importance of resources, fatigue and staffing issues will have to be considered by management. There are three mechanisms that may help ACTP achieve this. The first is to implement the PLD forms, or key parts of this form, into routine paperwork completed by front-line officers. As already discussed, a pilot of this form provided useful intelligence that was not ordinarily collected by police. This should be supported by enhancements to existing data collection mechanisms, information systems and reporting practices. Finally, the proposed liquor licensing team should also be provided with a dedicated intelligence analyst to regularly analyse data from a range of sources (not limited to ACTP data) and provide findings from this analysis to relevant sections of ACTP, including the liquor licensing team.

Operational intelligence also provides an important basis for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of policing strategies. However, there was little evidence of performance monitoring within ACTP relating to the effectiveness of the strategies used by ACTP to address alcohol-related issues in licensed premises and entertainment precincts. Inclusion of a dedicated intelligence analyst for the new alcohol team may assist ACTP to better monitor and assess its performance. There may also be scope for ACTP’s executive section to provide guidance in this area because of their involvement in monitoring and evaluating other areas of ACTP.

Coordination between different sections of ACTP

As with any large organisation, the coordination between different sections is an important factor in the efficient and effective functioning of the organisation. This is particularly important when implementing any type of new policing strategy. This factor has had both positive and negative impacts on policing strategies during this evaluation, primarily on monitoring, regulation and enforcement strategies, and intelligence gathering and analysis strategies. There was strong evidence of coordination between ACTP Intelligence and the Beats team, with information regularly shared between the two sections (albeit primarily in one direction). By contrast, there was little evidence provided to the AIC to indicate any coordination between the Beats team and ACTP Crime Prevention. The Beats team did not make use of work undertaken by ACTP Crime Prevention where the advertisement of drinks promotions and events by licensed premises were monitored. This information could have helped the Beats team direct resources more efficiently. There is scope for all sections of ACTP to work more effectively as part of a coordinated approach to policing entertainment precincts, with a particular emphasis on improved information sharing and collaboration.

Collaboration between ACTP and Office of Regulatory Services

Collaboration between police and regulatory authorities is one element of best practice and an important feature of an effective regulatory regime designed to minimise the problems associated with licensed premises. The police worked extensively with ORS to conduct inspections at licensed premises. It appeared that the relationship between the agencies during the evaluation period was generally positive. For example, some members of the compliance section from ORS felt that there was positive information-sharing between ORS and ACTP, particularly with the Beats teams and ACTP Crime Prevention. They also suggested that there was genuine desire to cooperate with each other, despite the fact that their differing priorities sometimes placed significant strain on the relationship. Both parties recognised that the relationship needed to thrive in order to effectively address alcohol-related problems in the Australian Capital Territory.

Despite this positive relationship, there have been challenges. As noted above, ACTP and ORS have differing agendas and work focus. Police are generally more concerned than ORS with breaches that involve alcohol-fuelled violent behaviour. Licensees have also expressed concern at times about the level of coordination between the police and ORS, indicating an apparent lack of communication between the two agencies that results in police telling licensees to do one thing and ORS directing them to do something else. For example, one licensee stated that ‘[m]ore communication between [ORS] and the police so we are not getting mixed messages would be good’ (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Management of licensed premises

The management of licensed premises in the Australian Capital Territory is challenging. The design of a licensed premise is a key issue for police and can hamper effective police intervention. During field observations, the AIC research team observed frequent patron overcrowding outside certain licensed premises. In some cases, long queues had formed at entrances and in locations where no outdoor smoking areas had been provided. Such overcrowding often led to alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour when intoxicated patrons came together in this confined space. This type of poor design also exists inside a number of licensed premises and similar problems of antisocial behaviour were observed. Such design flaws make it very difficult for any policing strategy to be effective, which suggests that ACTP need to better engage with premise management, Territory and Municipal Services and other relevant parties to jointly address the drinking environment.

The service of alcohol to intoxicated patrons, which the AIC research team observed on multiple occasions, also impacts on ACTP strategies and is a subject covered in more depth later in this report. This issue is likely to be addressed in part through the new legislation.

The quality of security staff can also impact on the policing of licensed venues. While discussions with some licensees indicated that security staff can greatly reduce antisocial behaviour, others said that aggressive security staff sometimes escalate heated situations and increase levels of antisocial behaviour among intoxicated patrons. Licensed premises managers need to ensure their security staff behave appropriately in order to support policing strategies and responsible service practices implemented in the Australian Capital Territory.

Last updated
3 November 2017