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Prohibiting Public Drinking in an Urban Area: Determining the Impacts on Police, the Community and Marginalised Groups

NCJ Number
Amy Pennay; Elizabeth Manton; Miachawl Savic; Michael Livingston; Sharon Matthews; Belinda Lloyd
Date Published
79 pages

This study built on previous work in assessing the effectiveness of public drinking laws in three local government areas (LGAs) in Melbourne (Australia), where public drinking remains a contentious issue.


The study concluded that it is impossible to reach a definitive judgment about whether public drinking laws are beneficial or harmful to the residents of the three LGAs in Melbourne, particularly since there are so many criteria by which their effectiveness can be measured. The findings are mixed regarding whether public drinking laws reduce the congregation of drinkers in public places, and there is no evidence that these laws reduce alcohol-related crime or harms. They do, however, generally give most residents a safer feeling when they are in public places, and they tend to improve family activities in public spaces. These latter benefits may explain the high level of continuing public support for public drinking laws in the three LGAs. Consistent with previous assessments of these laws, however, is their primarily negative impact on persons accustomed to drinking with their friends and family in public places. Public drinking laws undermine their traditional social and cultural interactions in public places and increase interactions with law enforcement officers and the justice system. Also, the dispersion of drinkers to more private locations has made it difficult for community health workers to locate drinkers who need access to medical, health, and welfare treatment. There was also evidence of displacement as drinkers have continued to drink, but in more covert areas, where many alcohol- related harms can be magnified. The study recommends that public drinking laws continue to be the discretion of local councils rather than state governments, given variations in the related issues among communities. The multi-faceted study methodology is described. 17 figures, 14 tables, and 32 references