Prohibiting public drinking in an urban area: Determining the impacts on police, the community and marginalised groups

Monograph no. 49

Amy Pennay, Elizabeth Manton, Michael Savic, Michael Livingston, Sharon Matthews, Belinda Lloyd

Public drinking laws have proliferated across urban areas over the past 15 years; however, there have been very few evaluations of their impacts and effectiveness. The purpose of this project was to evaluate public drinking laws across three diverse inner-urban local government areas (LGAs) of Melbourne: the Cities of Yarra, Darebin and Maribyrnong. The objectives of this project were to evaluate the implementation of public drinking laws, the effectiveness of these laws and the impact of these laws on a range of target groups including police, residents, traders, local health and welfare workers, and potentially marginalised groups. The evaluation produced equivocal findings in relation to whether public drinking laws reduced congregations of drinkers (with differing findings across municipalities) and there was no evidence that these laws reduced alcohol-related crime or harm. However, public drinking laws do make residents feel safer and improve the amenity of an area from the perspective of residents and traders. The evaluation found that public drinking laws often result in negative impacts to marginalised individuals and this requires more consideration in the implementation and enforcement of these laws. It is important that public drinking laws are carefully considered, implemented and enforced (with local council officers and police liaising collaboratively to respond to the needs of the individual community) and are coupled with community-specific social inclusion strategies.