By ERWIN CHLANDA
Both the re-introduction of the Banned Drinkers Register in September 2017 and the deploying of auxiliary cops at bottle shops (PALIs) in August 2018 were followed by increases in assaults in Alice Springs.
The People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) last week claimed that the introduction of the full-time PALI system in Alice Springs on October 1 last year “has contributed to a very significant reduction in alcohol-related assaults, alcohol-related domestic violence assaults, and alcohol-related emergency department presentations”.
The figures that appear to substantiate this point are from October 2017 to March 2018, compared with the corresponding period the following year.
This comparison shows massive drops of around 50%.
Trouble is, December 2017 was the month with the highest number of assaults in Alice Springs for the past two years, so a drop is likely.
In fact with the new PALIs – now trained as auxiliary police officers – firmly in place the numbers aren’t all that different when compared to the year starting October 2016, before PALIs but with fully trained police manning the bottle shops.
In February 2016 PAAC spokesman John Boffa said there should be an immediate evaluation of the Temporary Beat Location (TBL – the forerunner of the PALIs) and he called for an alternative ID scanning system.
Left: Action on alcohol in Alice has a long history: In 1990, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress purchased a food outlet and an attached takeaway liquor licence, and allowed the licence to lapse immediately, pouring out booze in Gap Road.
The numbers shown in our graph (pictured at top) are assault numbers, whereas PAAC spokeswoman Vicki Gillick last week quoted “total alcohol-related assaults” and “domestic violence alcohol related assaults”.
Both of these categories are included in the “assault” statistics we are quoting.
Ms Gillick says the figures came from NT Police and Health.
The government, very legitimately, has a strong interest in the figures looking good. But without suggesting any wrongdoing, it would seem advisable to get a second opinion, given the enormous drops being claimed.
The police says no independent reviews are being carried out. As things stand, the government provides all of the following:-
• The initial data (assaults reported to the police and hospital admissions, not court decisions).
• The interpretation of the nature of the events: Was the person intoxicated? Was the injury caused by domestic violence?
• The statistics.
Meanwhile, there are multiple ways people can land on the Banned Drinkers Register.
A government website says a person “may” get placed on the BDR through referral by registered nurses, doctors, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency psychologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, paramedics, child protection workers, social workers, sobering up shelter team leaders, public housing safety officers, Aboriginal health workers, Australian Counselling Association Level 4 counsellors, family members and carers worried about the person’s harmful drinking, police and the courts.
The Alice Springs News is seeking access to the raw police and health data underpinning the alcohol control measures on the condition that privacy is not breached.
By ERWIN CHLANDA