Sydney's lockout laws have shifted violence to neighbouring suburbs

Photo: iStock

A new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics (BOCSAR) has found that since the implementation of Sydney’s lockout laws assaults have increased in areas around the CBD lockout precincts.

BOCSAR said the new figures, which cover 61 months before and 32 months after the lockout laws came into effect, “found evidence for geographical displacement of assaults to areas immediately adjacent to the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD areas” along with suburbs within “easy reach” of those areas.

Areas adjacent to the lockout precincts, including The Star and venues around Ultimo and Surry Hills, saw a 12% increase while suburbs including Double Bay, Newtown and Bondi saw a 17% spike.

Time series of the number of non-domestic assaults for the proximal and distal displacement areas: Jan 2009-Sep 2016 via BOSCAR. PDA (proximal displacement area) is a ring of suburbs contiguous with the precincts under the lockout laws. DDA (distal displacement area) is a
group of four popular nightspots within easy reach of these precincts, such as Newtown, Coogee, Bondi and Double Bay.

At the same time, assaults in Kings Cross declined 49% while the Sydney CBD saw a 13% drop.

Time series of the number of non-domestic assaults for Kings Cross Precinct, Sydney Entertainment
Precinct: Jan 2009-Sep 2016 via BOSCAR

“While this suggests there has been a shift in violence away from the target sites to the surrounding areas, it should be remembered that the reductions in assault in the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD far outweigh the observed increases in the displacement sites; supporting the conclusion that, overall, there was a net reduction in violence during the 32-month post-reform period,” the report said.

The results also confirmed previous analyses showing substantial reductions in assaults in the King Cross and Sydney CBD areas immediately after the 2014 lockout laws came into effect.

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.”

Overall the study revealed that the impact of the lockout laws on levels of violence 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.”

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