We should not accept drunken violence as normal
Look into the faces of those dozens of people glassed in violent incidents in our pubs and clubs in recent years and you’ll know that we have a problem. Those faces are worth more than any of the words I’m writing on this topic at the invitation of The Punch.
The images of our young people fighting on our streets with total strangers whose paths have they have crossed by chance, makes you wonder if we’ve got it right as a society. We shouldn’t live in a wowser state. I am clear on that.
Equally, we shouldn’t live in a state where our very human pursuit of enjoyment takes us down a darker path where alcohol becomes the end in itself.
Where alcohol is available to all comers at all hours of the day and night and the results play out in ugly and frequently tragic fashion.
I can talk about statistics. About how 70 percent of all police engagements on our streets are in some way connected to alcohol as police deal with victims, offenders or witnesses.
And I can talk about visiting a young police officer in hospital who lost the sight in one eye because someone smashed a beer glass in his face.
Officers serving the NSW Police Force face dangers each week as they break up fights between brawling groups and then become the targets of drunken thugs themselves.
We have moved to lockouts and early closures in some areas which have significantly reduced the amount of alcohol related violence.
These are all messages you would expect to hear from police and from me as Police Commissioner because that is the reality of police work.
But I am most interested to see that there are others voices out there calling for reason on this issue. In Victoria some young people have recently formed a group called Step Back Think after observing these problems on the ground.
These are young people who love a good night out, having a drink with friends and enjoying themselves.
However, the violent assault of a friend has driven a desire in them to send a message to their peers that throwing a punch in anger, especially once you’ve had a few drinks, can tragically change lives forever.
From what I have observed, this group has taken on a huge task of getting a message to their peers and sending a message to venues and other parties that we all have to be accountable in order to solve this problem.
I think they have got it right. We are all accountable. A single stupid act can change the life of a victim or the life of the person who throws the punch.
Our days and nights are becoming warmer. For police, this means increasing numbers of assaults on our streets, parties spinning out of control and violent confrontations with people who have lost the capacity to think and act rationally.
I don’t believe that we have to accept that this is normal.
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