Gong doesn't need sober-up centre: hotels

Illawarra hotels have challenged the state government's use of crime statistics to justify establishing a "sobering-up" centre in Wollongong.

Police Minister Mike Gallacher announced plans last week to set up centres in Sydney, Coogee and Wollongong as part of a 12-month trial aimed at curbing alcohol-related violence.

Yesterday the Mercury revealed that, under the scheme, drunks who volunteered to spend the night at the Wollongong centre would be offered a free bed, breakfast, shower, pyjamas and freshly laundered clothes.

The government said Coogee and Wollongong had been selected to trial the centres "using data on alcohol-related offences across NSW".

However Australian Hotels Association Illawarra sub-branch president Andy Hannelly said yesterday alcohol-related crime was at historically low levels in Wollongong and he was surprised the city had been selected.

"The statistics show [Wollongong] hotels are working incredibly well with police, local government and community groups to ensure that our venues are as safe as they possibly can be," he said.

He did not think the centre was a reflection on the performance of the city's hotels.

"Our hotels have taken great steps in reducing alcohol-related violence."

He said he was concerned at the impact such a centre might have on the city's reputation.

"I believe it gives people the wrong perception of Wollongong.

"Unfortunately, it does indicate to people that there's a level of crime that really doesn't appear to be here based on the statistics."

He did not have an issue with the government setting up the centre, and even described it as a "positive, proactive measure". But he questioned its place in Wollongong.

"The government obviously believes there's a need for it [in Wollongong]," he said.

"But based on the statistics I don't believe its warranted here.

"I would have thought there were other areas more in need of this service."

Mr Hannelly's comments are backed by 2011 data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, which show that alcohol-related crime in Wollongong has fallen significantly to be in line with the state average.

Several other local government areas, including Newcastle and Byron, recorded greater rates of alcohol-related violence than Wollongong.

A response to questions sent to Mr Gallacher's office had not been received by the Mercury's deadline.


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