Wollongong residents have reason to feel much safer during a night on the town, the region recording NSW’s biggest drop in assaults at licensed premises.
Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows a marked drop in assaults in or near licensed premises in Wollongong, with 2012’s figure of 165 incidents the lowest in the region since 1995.
The improvement has been attributed to a number of initiatives, not least of which is a co-operative approach and open communication between police, Wollongong council and venues.
“What we’re seeing in Wollongong is the success when local hotels work with police and government through local liquor accords, and hoteliers take a proactive approach in targeting individuals who cause problems,” NSW CEO of the Australian Hotels Association, Paul Nicolaou, said.
Since a high of 260 assaults in 2008, assaults on or near licensed premises have dropped almost every year.
Mr Nicolaou said the 38per cent drop since 2008 was the biggest improvement in the state.
“It’s been a partnership between the venues, council and police to reduce alcohol-related assaults, with the focus particularly in the CBD,” Wollongong crime manager Detective Inspector Tim Beattie said.
“Around particular events and functions, we work hard to communicate with venues and ensure police have a high level of proactivity around those venues.”
Insp Beattie said the CCTV cameras in the CBD and Crown Street Mall were a “godsend” in monitoring assaults and those affected by alcohol, also citing transportation and migration routes between nightlife venues as factors in the dropping assault rates.
“We’re working with security in the mall to co-ordinate resources and defuse issues before they arise, and ensuring venues abide by responsible alcohol practices,” he said.
“We hold compliance operations regularly to ensure venues comply, and largely they do. More often than not, we resolve issues by good planning.”
The recent figures are a marked improvement for the region, which in 2009 had the second most violent venue in the state in the Glasshouse Tavern, and a total of nine venues on the top 100 list for assault figures.
Mr Nicolaou cited increased security presence, and promoting awareness of a $550 on-the-spot fine for refusing to leave a venue, as measures contributing to improving assault rates.
“We’re also improving cab ranks and queues at venues, and banning people from venues too,” he said.
Paul Anzani, from the Hotel Illawarra, said communication with police, tighter restrictions and a zero-tolerance approach to alcohol issues had combined to make Wollongong pubs and clubs safer.
“The data is encouraging signs of the hard work put in by venues and police,” he said.
“Licensed venues are being proactive with our liquor accords. I also think the message is slowly getting through that people have responsibility for their behaviour.”
He cited the hotel’s region-first ID scanning technology and indoor smoking area to keep people off the street as simple measures that could be implemented across Wollongong to reduce issues.
Mr Anzani said the contentious issue of ‘‘pre-fuelling’’, or drinking heavily at home before arriving at a venue, was one venues were now working to address.