The NSW government placed restrictions on the pubs, clubs and bars in the Sydney CBD area. This limited the sale of alcohol and restricted them from permitting patrons to enter their premises aka “lock out laws”.
Sydney’s lock out laws were recently praised for reducing violence, but the NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistics Research recently released a correction: “Lockout and last drinks” correction. See the actual paper here.
Subsequent checking by the Bureau has revealed an error in the geographic boundaries employed to define the Sydney CBD entertainment precinct.
Reanalysis of the assault data with the correct boundaries has revealed that assaults in this precinct declined by 26%, not 40% as originally stated.
So actually the reduction in violence was not that much. If the drop in overall foot traffic was the same, then you’re actually more likely to be assaulted in Sydney’s Kings Cross area than you were before the government lockout laws. How’s that for perverse outcomes?
The NSW Legislative Assembly Law and Safety Committee’s Enquiry into Alcohol and Drug-Related Violence heard evidence from business groups suggesting that the number of visitors to Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD had declined; with business revenue allegedly falling by between 20 and 50 per cent (NSW Legislative Assembly, 2014, p. 44). This suggestion that the number of visitors to Kings Cross has declined is supported by transport data. Between 2013 and 2014, counts of the number of passenger crossings in Kings Cross Station certainly declined, whereas over the same period rail patronage at all other City rail stations increased (see Table C1, Appendix C).
To be fair and not overstate the case, the BOCSAR article does state it is too early to examine these issues in detail:
If the January 2014 reforms reduced the incidence of assaults, not because they reduced alcohol consumption in Kings Cross and the CBD during hours when assault rates normally peak, but because the reforms discouraged people from visiting these areas, we might expect to see a general reduction in assault, even at times where there are no restrictions on sales of alcohol. It is still too soon to examine these issues in any detail.
Should policies be judged based on their intentions, or judged based on their outcomes? I’ll let you ponder that one.
Fedora tip: my libertarian friend Vikas Nayak.