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Criminals blame booze for incarceration

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Tags: Homepage; Research; Faculty of Business and Law

More than half of detainees in a Western Australian police lockup say alcohol is a major factor in their arrest and detention, according to new research from ECU.

In interviews with ECU researchers 54.5 per cent of detainees in South Hedland Police lockup said alcohol had contributed to their imprisonment ‘a lot’.

That’s more than double the rate in metropolitan Perth, where just 21 per cent of detainees blamed alcohol for their incarceration.

Researchers from ECU’s School of Humanities and Arts interviewed 260 police detainees over four weeks in lockups in Perth and South Hedland as part of the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Drug Use Monitoring Australia project.

Lead researcher Dr Natalie Gately said the results painted a worrying picture of alcohol-related crime in the Pilbara.

“We know alcohol is a major factor in crime in regional WA but this is the first time we’ve asked offenders how they believed that their drinking had impacted on their criminal behaviour,” she said.

“Implementing liquor restrictions is difficult in an area where not everyone drinks to excess and not everyone commits crime when they drink.”

“There needs to be a focus on reducing demand for alcohol through better treatment services and interventions, reducing the supply of alcohol through possible restrictions and a widening of education programs already in place.”

“Police and support services already do a lot of great work in this area but these findings demonstrate the complexity of the problem when high levels of alcohol consumption is normalised and accepted.”

Dr Gately said more than 90 per cent of detainees in Perth and South Hedland reported they consumed alcohol away from licensed premises and any plans would need to take that into account.

However she said illicit drug use in the Pilbara was significantly lower (between two and six times) than the metropolitan region across all drugs, including amphetamines.

Detainees that had consumed alcohol in the previous 48 hours:

66 per cent in South Hedland.

47 per cent in Perth.

Amount of alcohol consumed the last time they drank.

18.56 standard drinks in South Hedland.

12.27 standard drinks in Perth.

Average number of days detainees consumed alcohol in the last 30 days

13.5 days in South Hedland

8.2 days in Perth

The research was published by the Australian Institute of Criminology and is available on its webpages.

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