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Parklands dry zone 'diverts violence into suburbs'

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The Adelaide Parklands dry zone has relocated alcohol-fueled violence around the city and into the suburbs, rather than reducing it, welfare agencies say.

Police and the Adelaide City Council agreed that drinkers had moved to other parts of the city and parklands since it came into force.

A three month trial of the 8pm to 11am alcohol ban was approved by the State Government in December last year.

Fran Whiteley of Uniting Communities told InDaily many of those who gather and drink in the parklands now simply move after 8pm to other areas of the city, or into suburban houses.

“A lot of people (are) drinking in the parklands within the drinking times, but will leave the parklands and stay with extended family and friends – and cause overcrowding in the suburbs, which could lead to disruption,” she said.

“Police get called and it’s the tenant that more or less ends up with the issues.

“If there’s disruption … that tenant can actually lose the tenancy (which) can create more of an issue.”

Director of the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (ADAC) Scott Wilson said there had been a “dramatic decrease” in the numbers of people gathering to drink in the parklands – and the south parklands in particular – but warned problems associated with substance abuse had only been relocated.

“If you declare an area dry and you force people out of that area … the people are still going to go somewhere – and so, basically, you’re just either pushing the problem into other parts of the city, and if not into the city, out into the suburbs,” he said.

“If people impose (dry zones) then unfortunately then you’ve got to have penalties, and then penalties can mount up, to the point where people have no possibility of paying back those fines.

“One of our fears is that people will then be incarcerated down the track for basically doing what most non-Aboriginal folk on a Friday night are doing, on Rundle Street and Hindley Street, which is drinking in public.

“Go to most of these venues on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see people getting punched out left, right and centre.”

Wilson said the dry zone only makes it harder for support services to find those people who need help.

He said government would have to invest in an expansion of ‘sobering up’ shelters and the establishment of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in the CBD before real progress could be made to curb substance abuse among those who gather in the parklands.

‘Solve it somewhere else’

However, Adelaide City Councillor Anne Moran told InDaily that the trial was “working really well”.

She conceded that the dry zone had simply moved problems elsewhere, but “the problem is just too big for us”.

She said some people with drug and alcohol problems had been placing themselves in great danger by gathering in the parklands, near major city roads.

“We’ve shifted the problem somewhere else … solve it somewhere else,” she said.

“Now the State (Government) has to get off its arse and provide adequate housing.

“It’s not washing our hands … it’s saying we are not capable.”

Adelaide City Council CEO Peter Smith would not echo Moran’s comments, but said early evidence suggested the dry zone had led to a reduction in violence in the parklands, but that the evaluation of the dry zone was still ongoing.

“We recognise that this is a complex issue and respect that there will be many different views on how to solve it, which is why we are working with the State Government on a trial,” he said.

“Anecdotally, we are seeing smaller groups gathering, but more widely spread across the park lands, and a reduction in congregation in the South Park Lands and associated violence, but this is only anecdotal and we really need to let the trial run for a while and see how it is tracking,” he told InDaily in a statement.

“The three objectives of the trial are to achieve a safer and peaceful environment for the residents of South Terrace, provide access to social services for vulnerable people, and promote safe and responsible use of the Park Lands for everyone.

“We are also monitoring what happens with this onset of hotter weather as traditionally this has also led to larger groups gathering.”

He said several strategies had been implemented alongside the dry zone, including “coordinated service delivery between social service providers, Police and Council so that a range of appropriate services are being offered to people while ensuring community safety”.

A spokesperson for SA Police (SAPOL) said that at a recent public meeting on the dry zone issue, “SAPOL’s representative agreed that police had seen some displacement in and around other city areas; this includes the West Parklands and areas adjacent to the River Torrens”.

“One of SAPOL’s aims is to ensure that this trial doesn’t displace those involved and create the same issue in a different location, however the issue of ingrained alcohol abuse and homelessness is not an issue that SAPOL can remedy on its own,” the spokesperson said.

“These are complex issues that require the cooperation and collaboration of many agencies.”

A submission on the dry zone trial made by the South-East City Residents’ Association reads: “there has been a marked reduction (to zero) in alcohol-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour in our area of the South Park Lands”.

“There has also been a marked reduction in the number of fires being lit and in littering and defecating in the Park Lands.”

“..residents feel safer in the Park Lands, in their streets and in their homes, especially those living near, or on, South Terrace.

“Some members would support a 24-hour Dry Area, as is the case in city streets and squares.”

The results of the dryzone trial will be released next month.

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