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The cost of police time spent dealing with alcohol-related crime in NSW

Release date: 17 September 2007 Embargo: 12.00 noon

NSW Police spend at least $50 million a year responding to alcohol-related crime according to new research conducted by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research 1 and funded by the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF) i.

According to the Bureau, the money spent by NSW Police responding to alcohol-related crime would pay the annual salaries of around 1,000 full time constables in NSW.

The highest costs were in the Inner Metropolitan Region, totalling just under $13 million. The estimated costs in the sparsely populated Western Region of NSW were similar in magnitude to those in the more densely populated Greater Metropolitan Region (over $9 million), reflecting the higher incidence of alcohol-related problems in the remoter parts of NSW.

Salary costs associated with reactive policing duties consumed most of the resources, totalling over $18 million in 2005. Around one-third of alcohol related salary expenditure ($17 million) was spent on proactive policing. The remainder was spent on associated costs.

Responding to assault incidents was the most frequently recorded activity type, comprising almost 15 per cent of the total alcohol time recorded. This was closely followed by random breath testing, which comprised 14.4 per cent of the time

Fourteen per cent of police time was spent on paperwork associated with alcohol-related crime. Monitoring of intoxicated individuals, largely with no specific offence recorded, took a total of just under five per cent of alcohol-related time. Alcohol-related assaults consumed 2.2 hours of police time per event, while alcohol-related public nuisance incidents took 1.6 hours of time.

Commenting on the study, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that the true cost of alcohol-related crime to the NSW Police Service is almost certainly well in excess of $50 million because the Bureau was only able to examine police salary costs associated with alcohol-related crime. The study did not look at alcohol-related transport or infrastructure costs.

"Even so our study shows that responding to alcohol-related crime is a major drain on police resources in NSW. Efforts to reduce alcohol-related crime would substantially increase the resources police have available to combat other forms of crime" he said.

A copy of the Monograph can be accessed from the time of the launch at or by contacting the NDLERF Secretariat by phone on (03) 6230 2550, or email

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn. Ph. 9231-9190 (office), 0419-494-408 (mobile).

1 To conduct the study the Bureau carried out two representative sample surveys of Local Area Commands (LACs) across NSW (one in summer and the other in winter). In each survey, uniformed and support staff in each LAC were asked to keep a log of their activities over an eight day period, noting (according to pre-established procedures), which activities stemmed from alcohol-related crime. The cost of alcohol-related crime was then determined by multiplying the time spent by each staff member on alcohol-related crime by the salary of the staff member. Total costs were obtained by summing across staff.

i NDLERF is funded by the Department of Health and Ageing as part of its commitment to the National Drug Strategy. It funds research for the purpose of preventing and reducing the harmful effects of licit and illicit drug use in Australian society. NDLERF supports research that: leads to evidence-based practice in drug law enforcement; is experimental and innovative; and enhances strategic alliances between areas of law enforcement, human service providers and research agencies.