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Comments on Policing and AFZs from Redfern Police LAC

LAC Commander Catherine Burn has provided the following comments setting out the Redfern Police perspective regarding Alcohol Free Zones in the area.

I just thought I would drop you a line about the Redfern Police perspective regarding alcohol free zones.

The notion of alcohol free zones is just one of a number of strategies that we are working on to address problem street drinking and alcohol related crime. Other strategies include licensing enforcement operations; high visibility police operations targeting street drinking, offensive behaviour, assaults and domestic violence; liaison with Missionbeat, City of Sydney Homelessness Units and other services for callouts to locations of concern to offer support services to street drinkers; participation with the Liquor Accord and involvement in its revitalisation; and liaison between the Redfern Licensing Officer and Gaming & Racing.

The specific zones we have suggested correspond directly to the areas where we get complaints from members of the public about harassing or intimidating behaviour. We respond to these complaints, and either enforce our 'move on' powers, take action for a criminal offence, contact Missionbeat and/or convey the person to a proclaimed place / police station if applicable. On some of these occasions, the contact with police exacerbates the situation and it often escalates to one where we are involved in unnecessary confrontation and sometimes this confrontation becomes violent. This is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

The idea behind alcohol free zones is hopefully to reduce this contact and confrontation. If people know that they can't drink in a particular place because the alcohol might get confiscated or they might get a fine, then they might not drink in those areas thus minimising the potential for complaints to be made. It is possible that street drinkers might then move to some other area but it will be in an area where there is less likelihood of harassment or intimidation to other members of the public, and hence less likelihood of police having to become involved and less likelihood of confrontation. There is no doubt that there are bigger issues than alcohol free zones but they do provide one tool which may assist police in addressing concerns from this community about harassment, intimidation and/or obstruction. I emphasise, we already have non-productive interaction with street drinkers and it would be good to change this.

Ideally, if the zones are introduced it will coincide with an education campaign and an information campaign by police prior to taking action.

Catherine Burn