By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
The NSW lockout laws were hailed a success at the end of last year, with data suggesting the clamp-down on bars and nightclubs has reduced violence in the city centre and Kings Cross precinct by as much as 40%.
However, protests by affected businesses and an independent review led the state government to ease the laws just before Christmas 2016, the changes coming into effect at the start of this year.
But new research suggests that suburbs adjacent to the city – which not governed by the laws – have experienced double-digit increases in assaults.
Late night revellers go elsewhere
Figures just released by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) suggest a 12 per cent increase in assaults in areas bordering the lockout zone, including The Star Casino in Pyrmont, which has always been exempt from the restrictions.
Neighbouring suburbs such as Newtown, Bondi and Double Bay have experienced significant increases in late-night foot traffic, and corresponding rises in assaults of up to 17 per cent.
The figures suggest that lockout laws have achieved little more than cause the closure of hundreds of CBD businesses and a displacement of violence, with many going out in other suburbs or drinking at home.
Less people in Kings Cross
BOCSAR director Don Weatherburn says that despite “major reductions in assault in the target areas, there’s been at least some spill-over into other parts of Sydney”. He adds that foot traffic in the CBD and Kings Cross has fallen by up to 80 per cent on Friday and Saturday nights.
Kings Cross has been turned into a virtual ghost town, and nightlife in the CBD is a shadow of its former self.
Police want lockout laws across the state
NSW police have certainly taken a pro-active approach to enforcing lockout laws, going so far as to scrutinise menus and wine lists in restaurants to ensure they are not promoting excessive drinking and are making it clear that alcohol can only be served with food.
And despite the data on the displacement of violence, police are calling for the laws to apply across the state, which many believe could lead to a further increase in domestic violence within homes as more people ‘stay in’ to drink, while at the same time extending police and state control.