Essay-writing initiative commended

Allan Grindell
Allan Grindell
An essay-writing initiative run by Wanaka police over the New Year period has received positive feedback from parents, and is likely to be used again.

Between December 28 and January 2, underage drinkers caught in Wanaka were given the option of presenting themselves at the police station to be interviewed and writing an essay for police outlining the impact of binge drinking on a teenager's brain, rather than incurring an instant $250 fine.

Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell said 34 essays were written and only two or three offenders chose to be fined.

The offenders were aged between 14 and 17 and the majority were male. Only eight were female.

All but one offender was from out of town, although Snr Sgt Grindell said this was not surprising.

``The town has around 35,000 to 40,000 people here during the New Year period, most ... from out of town, so it makes sense that most of the offenders were not locals.''

He said a parent of an offender was impressed with the initiative and asked for a copy of their child's essay to show to their English teacher.

Snr Sgt Grindell believed the strategy gave teenagers a different kind of contact with police and made them aware of the dangers of alcohol.

The initiative was first thought of as a way of dealing with underage drinkers after a series of particularly bad events at the end of 2016, where hundreds of drunk youths were seen wandering the streets late at night.

While unable to judge the success of the programme at this stage, Snr Sgt Grindell said it was likely to be undertaken again.

``I would like to do it again, although it's a bit staff-intensive because we have to sit down with the kids every morning. Logistically, we're unable to do it 24/7, but when we do have extra staff on, I'd like to do it,'' he said.

Twelve arrests were made in Wanaka over the New Year period, none of which were major.


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