While Tamworth has seen an improvement in the rate of anti-social behaviour and incidents of alcohol-fuelled violence, it does not mean it has rid itself of its drinking problem.
What we do know is that additional security measures at hotels and stricter rules within them, including lockouts, have helped address the violence problem.
The introduction of CCTV cameras in the central business district has also helped.
The Tamworth Liquor Accord and individual licensed premises have been proactive in addressing the problems which were causing considerable concern within the community. The fact the city’s Imperial Hotel has been able to have its name removed from the violent venues list highlights the extent of the work undertaken and the results achieved.
While the improvement in alcohol-related incidents of crime is good, statistics relating to alcohol consumption among young people are quite the opposite.
The findings of Australia’s largest study into alcohol-related nightlife crime, released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, indicate high-risk drinking is a growing problem.
One of the main issues is a culture of pre-loading, mainly among young people who drink heavily before they go out. They have been identified as the troublemakers in the report, as they are more likely to offend than those who do not drink before leaving home.
The research has thrown up some unhealthy statistics. Sixty per cent of people have consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol in one session in the past year and 20 per cent have done so at least weekly. Other statistics of concern are 19 per cent of men having drunk 13 or more drinks in one sitting and since 1995 the number of people drinking at a high-risk level has increased from 8.2 per cent to 13.4 per cent over 10 years.
If the community is to address the issue, and its health and crime ramifications, all the attention should not be centred on licensed premises. Easily accessible, pre-packaged alcohol is contributing to the problem.
Because alcohol is more readily available, some reformers want restrictions on trading hours and higher prices to prevent people paying less to drink more.
At some stage society will need to have the debate to either change the rules or accept that the problems will continue to get worse.