(TL:DR – lockouts still suck, Sydney’s violence problem has moved not been resolved, the government still has its head in the sand)
By Andy Young & Stefanie Collins
All of the reported anecdotal evidence regarding the redistribution of violence in Sydney after the introduction of lockouts has been vindicated in a new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).
The study has found that assaults have increased in entertainment-heavy areas around the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD lockout precincts.
While the areas within the Entertainment Precinct defined by the lockouts continue to show downward trends in non-domestic assaults in neighbouring areas, where no such laws exist, it is a different story.
The BOCSAR figures show the suburbs bordering the lockout zone, which includes The Star Casino plus other venues around Ultimo and Surry Hills, have seen a 12 per cent increase in non-domestic assaults.
Other areas close to the lockout zone, including Double Bay, Newtown and Bondi, have seen a 17 per cent rise in non-domestic assaults.
The report says: “The statistically significant rise in the surrounding and nearby suburbs, as well as the generally stable state-wide trend in non-domestic assaults, lend further support to the proposition that the drop in the target sites was due to the specific licensing restrictions affecting those sites rather than other unmeasured factors (e.g. economic conditions) or other components of the liquor law reforms (e.g. bottle shop closures).”
It adds: “What is clear from the current study is that the impact of the NSW 2014 liquor law reforms on levels of violence in the inner Sydney area needs to be regularly reviewed and continually monitored. It cannot be assumed that the initial positive impact achieved by the lockouts and last drinks laws, which was clearly evident immediately after the changes were enacted, will be maintained over the longer term or that enforcing the current licensing restrictions in the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD Entertainment precincts will have no adverse impact on surrounding neighbourhoods.
“The extent to which a future net benefit can be achieved with the more relaxed lockouts and last drinks now being trialled in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross Precincts is, as yet, unknown.”
Commenting on the findings, the director of BOCSAR, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that it looks as if the effects of the lockout laws have not yet fully played out.
“It remains the case, however, that the decline in assaults in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD is still much larger than the increase in assaults in the displacement areas.”
Keep Sydney Open said in a statement that the report proves it is time to re-examine Sydney’s lockout laws.
The lockouts have been found to displace assaults to neighbouring precincts, a phenomenon that is consistent with all the anecdotal evidence that has come in over the last three years,” the group said in a statement.
“The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics director, Don Weatherburn, even says the effects of the laws have not yet fully played out. Melbourne dropped them, and Queensland aborted their plan to introduce lockouts. That leaves Sydney’s nightlife as the laughing stock of the nation, and indeed the world.
“It’s time to rethink these terrible laws.”
Meanwhile the NSW Racing Minister Paul O’Toole said the reduction in violence in Kings Cross and the CBD far outweighs the displacement of alcohol-related violence, with a net decrease of more than 600 incidents.
“I am fully supportive of a vibrant and safe nightlife. As Australia’s international city, Sydney deserves nothing less. At all times, the Government will be guided by the evidence as we fine-tune liquor regulations,” the Minister said.
He added that the Government has “no plans to extend the scope of the existing lockout area”, adding, “we will continue to monitor the impact of these laws”.
AHA NSW Director of Liquor and Policing John Green told TheShout: “We are pleased to see the State Government confirming it has no plans to expand the scope of the existing lockout area.
“AHA NSW also looks forward to the Government’s liquor reform legislation, announced late last year, passing Parliament in coming months.”