By Vinnie Rodi
MILDURA’S ‘Feast Street’ is in danger of becoming ‘Booze Street,’ according to Mildura police.
Unless more is done to stop the rise of drunk and violent behaviour in Feast Street (Langtree Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets), and the surrounding CBD, police fears could very quickly become a reality.
Mildura police Inspector John Nolan, INSET, said the regularity of violent and drunken behaviour in the CBD requiring police intervention, especially on the weekends, was at an all-time high.
He added that while Mildura police were supportive of Mildura’s ‘Feast Street’ concept, they had simply “had enough” of the horrid behavior.
Last weekend saw police called to the CBD for the second time in as many weeks to stop brawls from breaking out amongst late-night revellers.
Five people (four men and one woman) were arrested and issued with fines for being drunk, with police members forced to use capsicum spray in an attempt to keep the peace.
Insp. Nolan said that most late-night incidents of violence in Mildura’s CBD involved drunk patrons leaving licensed venues, and that despite “a massive effort by Victoria Police”, the behaviour of late-night revellers was not improving.
“If anything it’s getting worse,” he said. “Mildura police have had enough of injuries to people in the community, damage to property and injuries to our members because of drunk and violent behaviour.”
Insp. Nolan said key issues contributing to the dangerous trend included:
• Late night venues ‘dumping’ up to 800 patrons on to Langtree Avenue at the same time (early morning).
• Fast food stores trading in Langtree Avenue well after the closure of licensed premises which significantly affects crowd dispersal.
• ‘Pre-loading’ by patrons attending licensed premises.
• Use of stimulant drugs that tend to heighten violent behaviours.
• Irresponsible service of alcohol at licensed premises.
• Poor lighting.
• Inability of taxis to cope with crowd numbers, leaving people with no way to get home.
Insp. Nolan said one licensed premises had even gone as far as to offer a free bus to bring patrons into a late-night venue after football functions/events.
“Soliciting alcohol-affected persons to travel into town in the late evening can only add to the current problem,” he said. “It would be a much better outcome if the licensee offered free bus transport home after the venue closed.”
Insp. Nolan said police were continually working with licensees and Mildura Rural City Council to develop strategies aimed at reducing violence in the CBD.
“While some licensees are benefitting under the current entertainment model, continued violence will have a negative impact on the reputation, well-being and economy of the entire area,” he said. “It is an issue that every business in Mildura’s CBD has a right to be concerned about.
“Over recent years, there has been a significant increase in liquor outlets across Mildura. This has undoubtedly increased competition amongst venues, and when faced with reduced profits/patrons, some licensees are inclined to take risks – including the irresponsible service of alcohol.
“The number of drunken persons in the CBD is evidence of this trend.
“To that end, we have asked Council to review all kerbside trading to ensure the primary focus involves the service of meals.
“Unfortunately, some kerbside trading permits are being used to facilitate ‘street bars’. Council has also agreed to conduct safety audits throughout the CBD.”
In the meanwhile, Insp. Nolan said Mildura police would continue to exercise ‘zero tolerance’ to violent behaviour, while actively investigating alleged breaches of the Liquor Control Reform Act by late-night venues.
“While there are many positive impacts associated with the liquor industry, the misuse of alcohol can result in significant short-term and long-term harm for individual drinkers, their families, friends and the wider community,” he said.
“Most licensees are members of the Sunraysia Liquor Accord, which brings together liquor industry representatives, interested community members and police to discuss ways of improving the operation of licensed premises and reducing the impact of alcohol-related harm in the community.
“The Accord is a very positive initiative, but national trends demonstrate that alcohol abuse/violence is a complex problem, and sustainable solutions are difficult to achieve.”