Researchers work with QPS on harm reduction strategy

QPS Senior Sergeant Troy Lehmann and Associate Professor Grant Devilly at the 2019 Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards.

Griffith University researchers were part of a unique Queensland Police Service-led project which received a gold award in the 2019 Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards.

The ‘First Drinks: First Impressions Harm reduction through police engagement project’ involved police working with Griffith researchers to engage with patrons entering the Surfer’s Paradise night-time entertainment district, offering them a breathalyser test and providing feedback on their results.

People who were the most intoxicated stated (in an anonymous and confidential questionnaire) they would be more cautious in their decision-making during the night. The researchers also provided ion scanning for drugs if the patron wanted, and told them the exact drugs they had been in contact with so far that night.

QPS Senior Sergeant Troy Lehmann said having police officers engage with patrons at the beginning of the night reduced the assault rate by 58% and made people more likely to interact with police before trouble began later in the night.

“Winning this award brings further positive attention to the officers and researchers who are working so hard to increase police legitimacy and reduce harm to the public and the number of victims of crime by reducing the number of assaults in the Night-time Entertainment District.”

Associate Professor Grant Devilly from Griffith’s School of Applied Psychology said working with the police had led to a wealth of practice knowledge entering the scientific literature.

“More importantly, it has achieved the goal of reducing crime victimisation particularly among the young and most vulnerable in night-time entertainment districts.

“As a result of a very brief and very cheap intervention we achieved a halving of the assault rate and a doubling of police legitimacy in the night-time entertainment district,” Dr Devilly said.

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