Problematic Licensed Premises for Assault in Inner Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong

Article excerpt

   Evidence suggests that licensed premises are often associated with
   alcohol-related harm, particularly violent crime. However, not all
   Licensed premises appear to be equal contributors to alcohol-related
   problems in the community. This paper examines the distribution of
   harmful outcomes across licensed premises in three inner-urban
   areas of
   NSW. Police-recorded assault incidents on licensed premises in inner
   Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong over a 2-year period were analysed.
   In inner Sydney 12% of hotels and nightclubs accounted for almost
   60%
   of all assaults at hotels and nightclubs, in inner Newcastle 8% of
   licensed
   premises accounted for nearly 80% of all assaults on licensed
   premises
   and in inner Wollongong 6% of licensed premises accounted for 67% of
   all on-premises assaults. The analysis also found that assault
   incidents on
   licensed premises were concentrated late at night or early in the
   morning and on weekends. Licence types identified as being the most
   problematic for violence on licensed premises were hotels and
   nightclubs.
   In particular, hotels with extended or 24-hour trading recorded a
   greater number of assaults compared with those trading standard
   hours.
   The implications of these findings for crime prevention and law
   enforcement
   strategies are discussed.

In recent times, much media attention has been focused on crime associated with illicit drug use and, consequently, resources have often been devoted to identifying and targeting the associated problems. However, evidence from the most recent National Drug Strategy Household survey (NDSH) suggests that Australians are more than twice as likely to be victims of alcohol-related violence, such as verbal and physical abuse, than to be victims of violent incidents related to any other drugs (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1999). The extent of alcohol-related harm in Australia is further evident by the fact that 6505 males and 2049 females had to be hospitalised and a further 84 males and 40 females died as a result of an alcohol-related assault in 1997 (Chikritzhs, Jonas, Heale, Dietze, Hanlin & Stockwell, 1999). The consumption of alcohol is generally a socially acceptable part of Australian culture but some drinking, particularly drinking at high-risk levels, is associated with a considerable amount of harm to the community. The present study investigates to what extent particular licensed premises contribute disproportionately to this harm.

Criminological research, mapping the locations of crime, has repeatedly demonstrated that crime is not randomly distributed but is concentrated in particular locations (e.g., Block & Block, 1995; Jochelson, 1997; Sherman, Gartin & Berger, 1989). Similarly, research in the area of alcohol-related crime has highlighted the importance of place in understanding alcohol-related violence and aggression (Graham, West & Wells, 2000; Homel, Tomsen & Thommeny, 1992; Homel, 1999; Homel & Clark, 1994; Stockwell, Lang & Rydon, 1993). Licensed premises are one type of drinking setting that is often found to be associated with a substantial amount of alcohol-related harm. Geographical analyses in the United States (US) have shown that areas with higher concentrations of liquor outlets also have higher rates of violent crime, even when possible confounders such as levels of unemployment, ethnic/racial makeup, income and age-structure are taken into account (Scribner, MacKinnon & Dwyer, 1995). In Australia, a recent analysis of the NDSH survey data reveals that more persons are assaulted by an intoxicated person in pubs and clubs than in any other location (Teece & Williams, 2000).

Evidence from further studies conducted overseas and in Australia suggest that not all licensed premises contribute equally to this harm but rather that a small minority of problematic licensed premises are associated with the vast majority of alcohol-related problems. …