Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Council manufactures ammunition for its War on Kings Cross
Crime in Kings Cross in nearly all categories has steadily fallen over the past year, even as more big new licensed venues than ever have opened. Any evidence-based approach would have to consider the strong possibility that Council's mantra of "More licensed premises = more crime so let's restrict the premises" is flawed.
But no, Council has gone ahead and manufactured a junk study using data from 2001–2006 that 'proves' their hypothesis, even though only 14% of 190 local respondents to a face-to-face survey agreed with it.
The Sydney Morning Herald has swallowed the spin whole, not only taking the study seriously (a serious failure of critical thinking by Urban Affairs reporter Paul Bibby) but quoting police out of context (according to police I have spoken to since).
If the hypothesis had any legs, why is it that crime has fallen significantly over the past year even as huge venues have opened including The Trademark, Piano Bar, Kings Cross Hotel, Madame deBiers, the Sugarmill and Elk. A number of licensed restaurant/bars have also opened.
And why, when Councillors were apprised of those facts last night by Kings Cross Partnership chairman Adrian Bartels, was he aggressively questioned by Councillor Harris (Greens) as if he was some sort of idiot for not understanding the clear data in the Council study. Cr Harris then turned to Police for clarification only to have Mr Bartels’ statements verified.
Cr Mallard (Liberal) asked Cr Harris if he was going to apologise but it was not to be, and nor did any of the other Councillors let the facts get in the way of a good bit of temperance union dogma as they voted in support of the study, which will soon go on exhibition on Council’s website for public comment.
Just one example of the nonsense in the research is the way it handled the fact that Manly and Coogee have fewer licensed premises than Kings Cross yet more crime -- it waffled on about the size of venues and said this reflected "evidence that a small number of hotels are often associated with a large proportion of crime." Huh? Doesn't that contradict their whole approach? And could the higher crime rate simply reflect the higher proportion of moronic thugs that inhabit those places? (Ask any late-night taxi driver about the demographics of Coogee and Manly). But such subtle possibilities were not examined in the research.
This is my take on the problem - that we have a suburban yob problem, not a venue problem. If anything the pubs are over-managed as they scramble to comply with the existing plethora of regulations that just put up the price of a drink for the rest of us.
Punishing the venues won't make the yobs disappear. At best they will go somewhere else to make their mischief. And that's the real agenda -- good old-fashioned NIMBYism.
Council’s report and junk studies are already available below.
The agenda item summary is here:
The "Late Night Trading: Community Perceptions" report by Urbis, dated 30 June 2008, is here.
And finally, the "cumulative impact study", a report from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre for the City of Sydney entitled "Alcohol-related crime in city of sydney LGA", is here:
PS: I have previously taken apart the police data linking venues to violence, and it's all over the place like a mad person's breakfast -- no credibility whatsoever. I analysed it in a City News editorial. Anyone using it as a basis for further research also seriously compromises their work. Interestingly, no response to my piece was forthcoming.