Sydney lockouts: Spreading violence and taking life

Research out of NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has confirmed the displacement of violence from Sydney’s ‘locked out’ entertainment zones, further confirming the flaws in the laws. Displacement of alcohol-fuelled violence to precincts around the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross has shown a statistically significant increase – 12 per cent in the immediate surrounds and 17 per cent in some nearby precincts.

While the reduction in assaults in the lockout zones far outweighs the increases elsewhere, the results highlight the scheme’s failure to actually do anything to treat the causes of the violence other than reduce people numbers.

Operators in Kings Cross echo findings by City of Sydney that patron traffic in KX and Oxford Street is down over 80 per cent during peak times, after midnight.

BOCSAR (Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) report a 49 per cent fall in assaults in these areas, which doesn’t stack up well against the drop in patron numbers.

Similarly, CBD operators report in the vicinity of 40 per cent less foot-traffic, which is reported by Government to have produced a 13 per cent reduction in violence.

Since the blanket 1:30 lockout laws were introduced, critics have suggested the shift in patron density away from the constructed entertainment precincts would likely see the spectre of violence merely emerge elsewhere, such as suburban hospitality zones and unlicensed venues.

The new release citing the increases noted in surrounding areas, plus the increasing focus on domestic violence, and NSW’s record-setting suicide rate, are indications the arbitrary laws have not done much to treat the real problems.

BOCSAR noted its concern about the evidence of displaced violence, saying it “cannot be assumed” that perceived positives from the lockout laws would be sustained.

Mental health advocacy Lifeline released statistics that report 60 per cent of Australians frequently feel lonely, and 34 per cent say they have no-one in which to confide.

The underlying causes of random violence, particularly by adolescent men, are closely related to the factors that see this demographic by far the most at risk of self-harm or suicide – the leading cause of death in Australia amongst people aged 15-44 years, with men making up 75 per cent.

2015 saw 3,027 people take their own life. An average of one person every 2.9 hours. The mental health community says the data shows a failure in mental health policy, and warns more must be done on a social level.

“While we’re prescribing more medication for mental illness than ever before – including a doubling in the rate of antidepressant use since 2000 — we are not doing enough to combat social factors that lead so many to choose death over living,” said Lifeline CEO Peter Shmigel.

By this rationale, the laws restricting young people from socialising in Australia’s largest entertainment precincts have more likely caused deaths than fulfilled former Premier Baird’s claim that they “saved lives”.

Minister for Racing, Hon. Paul Toole, says the NSW Government, under stewardship of the new Premier Gladys Berejiklian, is looking for solutions.

“[The] Government has no plans to expand the scope of the existing lockout area,” said Toole.

“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.”

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