Last week, as part of the Nelson Weekly’s series on violence we spoke to Andrew Munro from the Nelson Hospital’s Emergency Department. This week Sara Hollyman talks to Senior Sergeant Scott Richardson about how police are combating alcohol-fuelled violence on our streets.
Whenever alcohol is involved there is potential for trouble, says Senior Sergeant Scott Richardson.
As Nelson’s area prevention manager, he is tasked with knowing exactly where that trouble might blow up.
“The biggest issue around street violence that we have is the role that alcohol plays … alcohol is one of the biggest drivers of our crime, particularly after midnight and in those early hours,” he says.
He says, once you get people grouping together who have all been drinking, such as what happens every Friday and Saturday night on Bridge St’s nightclub scene, “that’s when we have real issues”.
Bad moods mixed with booze leads to assaults, fights breaking out, angry girlfriends, jealous boyfriends, or simply two strangers who have taken a disliking to each other.
Scott says although violence is still a problem and probably always will be, serious crime in the region is tracking down, something he’s “very happy about”.
He says the decline can be attributed to the extra work around visibility and the amount of time spent around making sure pubs are abiding by their liquor licences.
“We put a lot of resources into having patrols out on Bridge St when the pubs are getting busy, especially when they’re shutting and people are getting pushed out onto the street.”
Police work closely with bouncers, so much so that in the early hours of the morning all bouncers put on high-vis clothing.
Scott says, not only does this increase visibility and make people think twice before starting trouble, if a fight does break out Police can also easily identify who’s part of the problem.
“We can’t be everywhere at once, but if we’re there, people don’t seem to fight as much, which means people can go out and have a good time and be free from violence.
“That should be the norm, not the exception, but every time we get large crowds and there’s alcohol involved there’s always that potential for violence.”
He says the way they deal with offenders has changed over his almost three decades on the force.
Scott says pre-loading is a huge issue, particularly with Buxton Square so close to the nightclubs.
“That creates issues for us as well because people will walk past us and be perfectly normal, and then it hits them and they’re a blithering idiot getting carried out of the pub.”
He says, when it comes to violence on the streets that means making sure the public are doing their bit.
“Ultimately – decide what sort of night you want to have. If you’re going to arrive in town drunk at midnight or an hour before closing really, is that what your aim for the night is? To spend the last hour on a sticky dance floor?”