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Police push for widespread alcohol bans across regional Western Australia

Giovanni Torre -

WA Police are pursuing liquor sale restrictions across regional Western Australia in response to a spike in alcohol-related violence.

The ABC reports that Deputy Police Commissioner Allan Adams has urged Liquor Licensing director Lanie Chopping to consider liquor restrictions across the Kimberley, Pilbara, Midwest-Gascoyne and Goldfields-Esperance regions.

Similar measures were put in place in Carnarvon, a coastal town in the north of the state's Mid West region, in May - followed by a 40 per cent fall in crime.

The measures would be similar to those in place in Carnarvon, where crime has dropped by 40 per cent since they were introduced in May.

"Based on the elevated crime data for Carnarvon, this sets a benchmark for what can be considered unacceptable levels of alcohol related-harm... Therefore, consideration should be given to implementing alcohol restrictions on any locality suffering higher rates of alcohol-related harm than those experienced in the town of Carnarvon," Deputy Commissioner Adams wrote to the Liquor Licensing director.

Ms Chopping is now considering what restrictions should be applied in other areas.

The Carnarvon restrictions limit customers to purchasing 11.5 litres of beer (approximately one carton), cider or pre-mixed spirits with an alcohol percentage of less than six per cent, or 3.75L (approximately two sixpacks) of anything stronger.

Customers are also limited to 1.5L of wine (two bottles) and there is a one litre limit on spirits and fortified wine. Bottle shops can only trade between 12pm and 7pm on weekdays and must be closed on Sunday and Monday.

Deputy Commissioner Adams listed 25 towns which recorded higher rates of alcohol-related crime than Carnarvon in 2022: Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra, Wyndham, Karratha, Marble Bar, Newman, Nullagine, Onslow, Roebourne, South Hedland, Wickham, Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Laverton, Leonora, Norseman, Wiluna, Cue, Meekatharra, Morawa, Mount Magnet, and Mullewa.

He said evidence demonstrates there has been a "significant" rise in the percentage of alcohol-related crime in the towns over the past 10 years, and that the rate of alcohol-related harm and ill health in the localities "will continue unabated unless there is strong and immediate intervention, and only a region-wide approach is likely to effectively reduce this harm".

The ABC reports that Deputy Commissioner Adams provided data in his letter to Ms Chopping revealing the total number of alcohol-related offences in the Kimberley region last year were 36.5 times higher than in metropolitan areas. Alcohol-related instances of family violence were 49.8 times higher outside metropolitan areas and there were 18.8 times as many calls for police assistance. Most alarming, the total number of offences in the region rose by 166 per cent between 2013 and 2022.

Fitzroy Crossing, despite being considered a dry community because of its restrictions on takeaway alcohol, suffered a high rate of alcohol-fuelled offences, with a total number of alcohol-related offences 74 times higher than in metropolitan areas and alcohol-related instances of family assault more than 100 times higher than in Perth, with "sly grogging" - the illegal clandestine transport and sale of alcohol in dry communities - blamed.

Deputy Commissioner Adams told the Liquor Licensing director that "Without long-term stringent restrictions on the sale of packaged liquor, this harm will continue unabated; and as evidenced, will likely continue to escalate at a significant rate.... Nothing short of substantial liquor restrictions will have any effect in reducing the alcohol related harm in these communities."

More to come.

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