Northern Territory police data has revealed a stark drop in domestic violence calls, property offences and alcohol-related violence in the central Australian town of Alice Springs after the introduction of stricter alcohol laws in the territory.
The NT government faced pressure over rising crime and antisocial behaviour in Alice Springs in recent months, which prompted tighter alcohol restrictions to reduce takeaway liquor sales and purchasing days and reverted about a dozen communities to dry zones after federal laws expired last year.
Indigenous people and advocates have warned restrictions and bans are not the only solution, urging action on addressing drivers of harm such as poverty, a lack of education and employment opportunities, poor and overcrowded housing and family violence.
An NT government briefing obtained by Guardian Australia shows that there has been a drop in reported levels of crime and anti-social behaviour.
“This has seen a reduction of ASB, domestic violence and general incidents reported,” the report said.
“Notably, jobs attended were immediately reduced in line with no take away sales, allowing for further proactive work to be undertaken by general duties,” it stated.
The report found domestic violence calls were down more than 30% in the three months since the restrictions were brought in, with 390 calls for police assistance at domestic violence incidents from 30 January to 27 March and a stark reduction in alcohol-related domestic and family violence incidents.
The internal police data found alcohol was a factor in 76% of the domestic violence incidents they attended in the first week of January, before restrictions were reintroduced, with alcohol-related incidents down during the past three months between 45% and 67%.
The report also found that reported levels of property break-ins were down by nearly 46% and youth offences were down by 36% after the restrictions were brought.
The NT police force has been conducting high-visibility patrols and sent in additional police members as part of “Operation Drina”, which began in December to combat antisocial behaviour and crime, sparking concerns from some traditional owners and elders of overpolicing.
The briefing also said authorities were increasing their community engagement and Return to Country initiatives, continuing involvement with Aboriginal Liaison Officers and rotating remote community-based Aboriginal Liaison Officers to Alice Springs to assist people who may be from surrounding communities to return to Country.
The report said a key concern was patrons drinking in pubs and leaving after the restricted hours. With peak times being 2pm and 7pm, patrons were reported to be often affected by alcohol within the CBD streets, which could lead to poor behaviour.
“This pattern of behaviour is daily and causes apprehension by the public within the CBD along with business”, the report stated.
The briefing to the NT government recommended tighter restrictions to include reduced takeaway sales on Saturday to align with restrictions already in place on Wednesdays to Fridays and implementing volume controls based on Tennant Creek restrictions.
It said that officers would be closely monitoring pubs’ compliance with the banned drinkers registry and reported an increase in “repetitive” license premises checks to ensure they are complying with the law.
The briefing noted that the restrictions could mean an increase in people buying alcohol from illegal sellers and said that Alice Springs police will be monitoring any “unauthorised sales”.