Domestic violence is one of the most dangerous situations police must deal with, but a solution to lowering domestic violence rates may lie in changing alcohol consumption patterns.
Superintendent Patrick Paroz is the Commander of Drug and Alcohol Co-ordination for NSW Police – he knows first hand the unpredictability and dangers of domestic violence situations.
“For the first 28 years of my career I was in police stations and domestic violence situations are particularly dangerous, more so than other things because they are unpredictable,” he said.
“They can be very emotional situations, and when alcohol is involved, it can amplify people’s emotions. Some people do things that they would never do if they were sober.”
According to Supt Paroz, there are uniform findings in Australia and overseas that an increasing number of alcohol outlets is associated with high rates of domestic violence.
“The latest statistics we have are for the 12 months to April 2012 and they show that in 39.4 per cent of domestic violence cases alcohol has been a contributing factor, which is quite significant,” he said.
The NSW Office of Liquor and Gaming has recently commissioned a study into the relationship between alcohol outlet density and domestic violence.
“There is already a lot of research out there by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research showing that with more outlets there is increased availability of alcohol, increased accessibility and, because bottle shops will compete with each other, it results in increased affordability,” Supt Paroz said.
“Availability, accessibility and affordability are our three A’s that we believe affect domestic violence rates.”
An Alcohol Policy Working Group comprised of police, members of the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Liquor and Gaming has been formed to come up with policy options and recommendations targeting alcohol consumption and associated violence.
“What we will be doing is looking at long term solutions,” Supt Paroz said.
“When it comes to alcohol consumption, short term fixes won’t work because, as a professor in Newcastle said at a forum I attended recently, it is incredibly difficult to change people’s attitudes towards alcohol, simply because they like to drink it.”
In Penrith there are more than 48 stores, clubs and pubs that supply takeaway liquor, a concerning number according to Penrith City Councillor, Mark Davies.
“We definitely need to support any concerns of the police about alcohol consumption and violence,” he said.
“Over 30 stores does seem quite a lot and there are certainly problems with young people drinking so the findings of the report will be interesting.”
Underage consumption of alcohol in private homes is also a by-product of the availability of take-away alcohol.
NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, announced an inquiry into the supply of alcohol to minors in private residences.
Coogee MP, Bruce Notley-Smith, will lead the social policy inquiry that will compare the current laws in NSW to those of other states.
The State Government is considering introducing tougher penalties for parents who supply alcohol to minors that are not their own children.
These penalties would include up to 12 months in prison for parents who turn a blind eye to underage drinking in their homes or at house parties.