The state’s top crime statistician says there is no basis for claims that lockout laws are working, arguing that it will take at least until Christmas before enough data is available to conduct a proper analysis.
Don Weatherburn, director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, said there is no evidence the laws introduced by the NSW government in February have had any effect on levels of non-domestic violence in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD.
Dr Weatherburn said two factors need to be taken into account: that there was “very little data after the lockout laws to make any judgement whatsoever” and that the numbers “bounce around quite a bit”.
The downward trend of violence in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross “began well before the lockout laws took place,” he said.
On Wednesday, a parliamentary inquiry heard evidence from police that laws introduced in February locking out customers from pubs and clubs in the violence hotspots from 1.30am and ending alcohol service at 3am had led to a significant drop in assaults.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Fuller told the inquiry that since the laws were put in place there had been only two recorded incidents of assault causing grievous bodily harm, compared with 22 in the corresponding period the year before.
But releasing the quarterly NSW crime statistics update on Thursday, Dr Weatherburn rejected the analysis.
“If the overall trend is down before the lockout, then of course you’re going to see a reduction,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean it’s attributable to the lockout. Gratuitously picking a pair of points and saying, ‘well, compared to this time last year, things are a lot better’, is not a satisfactory basis for judging whether the lockout laws are working.”
He said it would take at least until Christmas to gather enough data for a proper analysis.
“It depends on the size of the drop,” he said. “If it’s a whopping effect, we’ll know by Christmas. If it’s a subtle effect, we won’t know until after that.
“And it may be that the effect is really only apparent in summer, when the assault rate normally rises.”
Figures provided to Fairfax Media show there has been an average annual 28.2 per cent drop in non-domestic assaults inside licensed premises within the Kings Cross lockout precinct across two years.
But there has been no change outside the venues.
Across five years the average annual drop in assaults inside the Kings Cross licensed venues was 13 per cent but there was no change on the street.
For the Sydney CBD lockout precinct, there was no change either inside or outside licensed premises across two years.
Across five years in the CBD there was no average annual change inside licensed premises, but an average annual drop of 5.4 per cent outside.
The lockout laws were introduced by then premier Barry O’Farrell after a campaign by police and emergency services and sections of the media in response to the fatal assaults on teenagers Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.
Elsewhere, Dr Weatherburn highlighted the growth in arrests for use and possession of amphetamines was “a matter of concern”, noting they had increased by 124 per cent since January 2010.
“The number of people testing positive in Kings Cross and elsewhere to amphetamine use is going up,” he said.
Australian Institute of Criminology data shows 63 per cent of Kings Cross detainees tested positive to amphetamines in the third quarter of 2014.
This compared with 61 per cent between January and March and 60 per cent in the third quarter of 2013 – but the figure in the first quarter of 2012 was just 41 per cent.
More broadly, Dr Weatherburn noted it was the first time in the bureau’s 25-year history that there had been no increase in the top 17 offences.
In the two years to June 2014, robbery without a weapon was down 18.7 per cent, break and enter dwelling was down 10.5 per cent, motor vehicle theft was down 11.5 per cent and stealing from a person was down 14.7 per cent
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