Detractors of the lockout laws predicted the displacement of violence to other suburbs from the start – now the evidence is in.
The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has released its latest findings on Sydney’s controversial lockout laws.
The statistics appear to back up a prediction many critics of the laws made when they came into effect in February 2014: that violence would move elsewhere. Because the lockout restrictions encourage partiers into areas previously not badly affected by violence, incidents there have risen as a result.
BOCSAR’s analysis covers five years before the lockout laws and two-and-a-half years after they came into place.
Instances of non-domestic violent assault are down 49 per cent in Kings Cross and 13 per cent in the CBD. This is partly due to a steep decline in patronage at venues in the area: the fewer people in the area, the fewer violent incidents.
BOCSAR reports violence has increased by 17 per cent per cent in other popular nightlife districts not far from the CBD: Newtown, Coogee, Bondi and Double Bay.
But Jake Smyth of Mary’s hasn’t seen a spike in bad behavior on his doorstep in Newtown. “Mary’s got busier when the lockouts came in, however I would not say that alcohol-related crime rose to the same degree as the influx of people,” he says. “It killed the Kings Cross precinct, it hasn’t had that much effect on our neighbourhood.”
Smyth believes the problem is being policed more efficiently now. “One thing I’ve noticed is that policing is more engaged in the [Newtown] community. They come to the venue, they walk through with the dogs, they’re friendly and engaging to punters, they’re not here to bully us.
“Before lockouts they were walking around the Cross, getting angry about having to solve these problems, but were not given enough community-based tools to help them.”
Ben Pearce, general manager at Bondi’s Beach Road Hotel, can’t comment on an increase in assaults in Bondi, but says: “There needs to be more personal responsibility when it comes to drinking and socialising in licensed venues.
“I am not in support of the lockout laws and the way they were introduced. I am in support of a stronger stand against those individuals who cause acts of violence in licensed premises,” says Pearce.
Director of BOCSAR, Dr Don Weatherburn, believes the effects of the lockout laws are still playing 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.”
Further research will help paint a clearer picture of the effect of the laws.
Additional reporting by Amanda Valmorbida.