SATURDAY EXCLUSIVE NIGHT FEVER
Police data reveals extent of crime in city’s West End
THE alarming level of violence around Hindley St on Friday and Saturday nights is revealed by crime statistics published today for the first time. The figures were contained in a confidential police briefing to the Attorney-General.
Partygoers are twice as likely to fall victim to violence in the West End than elsewhere in the city, according to the detailed briefing to John Rau.
In Hindley St alone, each weekend in 2016 there were an average of nine offences against people, such as assault or robbery, and offences against good order, such as drug dealing.
Police used the figures and intelligence in the briefing paper late last year to successfully request new powers to curb Friday and Saturday night violence.
While the powers were announced publicly, the extent of the problem has not been revealed until now, after the Opposition successfully applied for the briefing using the Freedom of Information Act.
The “police risk assessment” from Commissioner Grant Stevens to Mr Rau revealed that in the West End, people were “twice as likely to be victims of offences against the person and good order and three times as likely to be exposed to behaviour not in keeping with normal community standards’’.
In declaring an area a “public precinct”, police are given the right to use metal detectors to search an individual, ban people from entering the area at certain times, direct troublemakers to “move on”, remove children from the area and fine people more than $1000 for behaving in a disorderly or offensive manner.
The powers apply to the “City West Precinct” every Friday and Saturday night between 6pm and 6am.
“Analysis of various data sets, augmented by intelligence analysis, has identified the area ... to have a heightened risk to public order and safety during the hours of 6pm and 6am each Friday and Saturday,’’ Mr Stevens’s briefing states.
Opposition police spokesman Stephan Knoll said the figures, which show violence peaks at midnight, contradicted police arguments surrounding the previous attempt to curb violence, the 3am lockout laws introduced in 2013. A review 12 months later found the lockout had little effect.
“Most of the crime committed in and around the West End precinct actually occurs around midnight and calls into question the value of the 3am lockout,’’ Mr Knoll said. “If the Government wants to reduce crime in South Australia, then it should deal with the fact that we have a drug crisis and support Liberal measures to curb drug use and supply.”
Adelaide West End Association spokesman Andrew Wallace said it hoped the public precinct laws, as well as the 3am lockout laws, would return Hindley St to being a safe location to visit late at night.
“Giving police the powers to properly police the area is a good thing,’’ he said.
“Some of the problems have been eased by the lock(out) which has worked really well and we hope that this latest effort bears fruit and brings the street back to being a really good place again.’’
Police Minister Chris Picton said crime in the area had dropped after the 3am lockout laws were introduced.
“If the Liberals are saying they would scrap the lockout, they would put people at further risk,’’ he said.
“If the Liberals were serious about tackling drug use, they wouldn’t have blocked laws to allow police to search the cars of drug users, as recommended by the Ice Taskforce.’’
Late Night Venues Association president Tim Swaine said in trend terms, the figures used by SAPOL in the briefing showed a fall from 2015 to 2016, and on that basis he questioned the “public precinct” decision.
However, he said the declaration – that gives police the same powers on the street as they have inside licensed ve- nues – was supported by the association.
“We are supportive of the ability to declare precincts and give police these powers but we were concerned about what information they were using to declare the precinct,’’ he said.
“(From) this document (it) doesn’t look like there is a great issue with public disorder or public safety.’’
A Hindley St brawl on December 10 claimed the life of Jack Hanley, 22. It happened at 5.20am, 40 minutes before the powers were to be lifted that day. At the time of the declaration, a month before the death, police said the precinct would be safe for law-abiding people and would “not be a welcoming space for drunken idiots and criminals”.
The briefing lists the worst locations for weekend violence. Hindley St had 480 offences against the person and good order in 2016, more than nine each weekend. North Tce had 170 and West Tce 45.