Underage drinking falling in Coffs

DESPITE the release of alarming statistics to the contrary, the scourge of underage drinking in the region has apparently dropped by around 70 per cent – if our beaches are any guide.

Bureau of Crime Statistics figures put Coffs Harbour in the top 10 in NSW for incidences involving underage drinking – number seven with Wollongong.

The local Safe Party Squad, however, has anecdotal evidence the culture of binge drinking and its associated problems, is declining.

John Black from the Safe Party Squad spends Friday and Saturday night patrolling beaches seeing first hand what our local teens are up to.

“Perhaps those higher numbers are because of an increase in police presence, which is great,” Mr Black said.

“But what we’ve noticed in the last two years is the number of kids out drinking on the beach on a Friday and Saturday night has dropped by about 60 or 70 per cent.

“We’re finding now the people going down to the beach to drink are really only your hardcore drinkers who chronically drink and who generally have problems with their social relationships.”

Mr Black said in his time on the streets, he has seen a big change in attitude by underage drinkers.

“It’s a combination of things,” he said. “We’ve been really hitting the schools hard and the feedback we’re getting is the message really does sink in. Kids are feeling empowered to say no and can offer great arguments as to why going out and getting drunk isn’t such a great idea.

“Also, a focused police presence has definitely had an impact.

“We had a situation last week when there was a big party organised at Emerald Beach, the police were informed beforehand and went down early and removed all alcohol – it turned out to be a quiet night with no trouble or complaints.

“They did a fantastic job and we urge parents to let police know ahead of time if they hear about these things so they can do something about it.”

For the record, Bega Valley local council area had the worst underage drinking record with 240 offences and nearby Eurobodalla recorded 232 fines.

North Sydney had 205 offences, Wyong 190, Shoalhaven 189, Wagga Wagga 153, Coffs Harbour and Wollongong 144, the Blue Mountains 140, Sutherland Shire 98 and Warringah 75.

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