Mayors of Darwin, Katherine call for NT-wide alcohol restrictions amid concerns about crime

Mayors of Darwin, Katherine call for NT-wide alcohol restrictions amid concerns about crime

The mayors of two major Northern Territory towns say they want alcohol restrictions similar to Alice Springs rolled out across the jurisdiction, warning that people who need alcohol will move to other areas to access it.

Key points: Darwin and Alice Springs mayors have called for a co-ordinated NT-wide response An announcement is expected tomorrow after a snap review of alcohol restrictions called by the Premier last week. ‘, says the comments ’caused unintended harm’

Bottle shops in Alice Springs remained closed today under emergency restrictions announced last week, with an announcement expected tomorrow on the possible temporary return of blanket alcohol bans.

The measures only apply in Alice Springs and came into effect after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s visit last week in response to political and media pressure over crime and alcohol-fuelled violence.

But local government leaders in Tennant Creek, Katherine and Darwin have expressed concern about the response.

“Every time a territory government puts restrictions in one place, we have an influx of people trying to access alcohol in other places,” said Mayor Kon Vatskalis.

Mayor Kon Vatskalis says he is concerned about people traveling to Darwin to access alcohol. (ABC News: Anita Lakatos)

Mr Vatskalis proposed a range of other measures, saying that alcohol dependence should be treated as a medical issue, but also that consideration should be given to re-criminalising public drunkenness.

“But putting restrictions here and there and everywhere is not going to solve the problem. It might stop it in one area, [but] it will appear in another.”

“People will travel – they have cars.”

Katherine Mayor Lis Clark echoed the call for a co-ordinated response.

“I think if we’re going to have these restrictions, they should be area wide,” she said.

The latest crime statistics report a 133 per cent increase in commercial burglaries in Katherine, with property damage rising 42 per cent in the 12 months to November.

“I’ve never seen it at this level, and for shop owners to have to set up bars and all kinds of security, people are at the end of their tolerance,” Ms Clark said.

“The government must step in and work together with all the community leaders and our elders to determine what we will do next.

“Just closing a few bottle shops is not going to solve the problem.”

Katherine Mayor Lis Clark says crime in the town is the worst she has ever seen.(ABC News: Roxanne Fitzgerald) Premier apologizes for ‘sharpened’ comments about police

The NT Government has remained under intense pressure since the situation in Alice Springs made national headlines, with residents meeting last night to discuss possible class action.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles was also forced to apologize after the police union complained about the wording of a response she gave during an interview on Darwin radio station Mix 104.9 on Monday.

In response to questions, Ms Fyles said the government was focusing on “generational” issues in the longer term.

But she added that, because of the high levels of crime in the Red Centre, “we need to have an immediate response, which is why I have asked the police to act”.

“I contacted the police commissioner [Jamie Chalker] to say I expect every resource to be put into Alice Springs to support that community at the moment.”

Ms Fyles said police were “very responsive” to the issues facing Alice Springs during her visit to the town last week.

In a subsequent post on social media, the Northern Territory Police Association (NTPA) condemned Ms Fyles’ comments.

“Natasha Fyles has insulted every member of the NT Police Force, from the top down,” the NTPA posted on social media.

It has forced Ms Fyles to provide more funding for police recruitment, describing the force as “overstretched, overworked and critically under-resourced”.

The chief minister posted an apology on Facebook on Tuesday.

“When I became aware of the unintended harm my comments had caused, I contacted the Northern Territory Police Association,” Ms Fyles said.

With national attention focused on crime in Alice Springs, the country’s Liberal Opposition deputy leader, Gerard Maley, has called for an election to be held.

But he has shied away from throwing his weight behind wider restrictions on alcohol, in communities such as Darwin and Katherine.

“Right across the area, alcohol is an issue and the Labor government hasn’t listened,” he said.

“The police are doing a great job … and we really need to make sure that the police are adequately resourced to do their job because they are the frontline workers.”

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