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Assaults in Sydney have plummeted since lockout laws began, but they fell across NSW anyway

Photo: Getty/ Lisa Maree Williams

A study into Sydney’s controversial lockout laws has found a significant fall in assaults since they came into effect in February 2014 and a similar trend across New South Wales.

However, the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) was unable to determine if the drop was linked to less drinking or fewer visitors.

The changes include 1.30 am lockouts in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross, no alcohol service after 3 am, a statewide ban on takeaway alcohol after 10 pm and a freeze on new liquor licenses in the two designated areas.

The reforms were introduced following the death of Daniel Christie following an assault in Kings Cross on New Years Eve 2013.

The BOCSAR study found assault incidents in Kings Cross dropped by nearly one-third (32%) while in the Sydney CBD saw a 40% fall.

There was also a significant 9% reduction in assault across the state. The report found some evidence that assaults increased in and around The Star casino in Pyrmont but this was not “statistically significant”.

Assault trends in Kings Cross. Source: Bocsar

It also looked at surrounding areas, such as Newtown and Bondi, to see if there was a “displacement effect” as forecast by critics of the new laws. However, the study found no evidence that assaults increased in areas outside the lockout zones.

BOCSAR director Don Weatherburn said the new liquor laws appear to have reduced the incidence of assault but some important questions remained unanswered.

“It is not yet clear whether the reduction in assault was due to a fall in alcohol consumption or a change in the number of visitors to Kings Cross and/or the Sydney CBD entertainment precincts or both,” he said.

Assault trends in the Sydney CBD. Source: Bocsar

“We will have a clearer picture of exactly what caused the fall in assaults once we have had time to examine the precise timing and location of the change.”

The study also looked at data for rail passengers using Kings Cross Station and found a decline in 2014 compared to 2013, while patronage at all other city rail stations increased. Taxi rank use in the Kings Cross area also dropped.

NSW police minister Troy Grant said the BOCSAR report confirmed anecdotal from police and medical professionals

“Clearly we are seeing a fall in non-domestic assaults in both Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD entertainment precinct as a result of our reforms,” he said.

“Today’s findings suggest our ongoing tough stance against alcohol-related violence is not only having the desired impact on assault rates across the Sydney CBD, but is also helping contribute to wider falls across NSW, which recorded a nine per cent reduction in violence.”

The full BOCSAR report is here.

Assault trends across NSW. Source: Bocsar

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