It is 11pm, 30 degrees and Flinders St is building up for a rowdy night. It’s early, most people are still at home “pre-loading” or at a pub in the suburbs having dinner and a couple of quiet ones before heading to the nightclub strip.
The crowd won’t start arriving in the Safe Night Precinct until about 1am, when they’ll bounce from the three main clubs, Bully’s, The Bank and The Mad Cow, to find the best spot by the 3am lockout.
Although it’s early, there’s already a large police presence on the street. Twelve officers roam the less-than-100m-long nightclub strip, quashing trouble before it has the chance to kick off. The drug squad is out and about, with three plain clothes officers looking for dealers trying to sell their wares.
As the night edges on, the footpath fills with more revellers. There’s a group of men, the 5 per cent who are looking for trouble. They’re sitting on a garden bed, baiting passers-by. They’re here for one reason and that’s to ruin someone’s night. It doesn’t take long for the police to confront them and issue a move-on order, banning them from Flinders St for the rest of the night.
These move-on notices are one of the best outcomes of the Safe Night Precinct program.
It’s now close to lockout and punters are running between clubs, lining up, hoping to make it in before 3am. It’s the golden hour that has police on edge; they stand in groups of four outside the three main venues, looking for trouble, although none eventuates. Their presence is enough to ward off fights.
The night rolls on, people overindulge, but everyone gets to go home, to bed, instead of a jail cell.