Australian Institute of Criminology

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Violence, danger, security and the night-time economy

74 Leichhardt Street, Griffith ACT, Professor Stephen Tomsen
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM 15 June 2010

Professor Stephen Tomsen

Presentation overviewProfessor Stephen Tomsen

In recent years, there has been a new research focus on night-time leisure and its links with violence and crime. In the United Kingdom, the mix of industrial closure and rapid deregulation of the liquor industry, the rise of a poorly-regulated private security sector with bouncer violence and illegal activity in pubs and clubs, have all contributed to the startling rise of a problematic night-time economy in many towns and cities. These concerns have been echoed in Australian debates about disorder, late licensing hours, assaults in listed venues, regulation and behaviour of nightclub security and their possible infiltration or targeting by criminal gangs, problems with transport and safety at special events and the increased resource pressures on police and emergency/medical services at night.

Recorded public disorder, vandalism, drunken driving, serious assaults and sexual assaults all peak on weekend nights and follow the rhythms of night-time socialising. There is a key tie between night-time drinking in and around licensed premises and serious confrontational violence that typically (though not exclusively) occurs between young men. Yet national records signal a long-term decline in Australian homicides that includes a recent drop in the total number of cases of confrontational killing by assault among male strangers. There is no clear evidence that violence or risk from violence in Sydney's expanded nighttime economy has increased. Yet political, media and public concern and fear persist, and a high proportion of revellers, night-time leisure workers and nearby residents are apprehensive about perceived rudeness and incivility as signs of serious threat and personal danger. This presentation will argue that problems with knowing about real levels and forms of societal violence and the mixed evidence about risk in night-time leisure can only be understood by acknowledging how police and criminal justice systems define and process violence in contradictory and historically shifting ways.

The presenter

Stephen Tomsen is Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Western Sydney and has previously held positions at the Universities of Newcastle, Westminster, Leiden and Washington and the Netherlands Ministry of Justice. His recent publications include (2009) Violence, Sexuality and Prejudice (New York/London, Routledge Press 2009) and Crime, Criminal Justice and Masculinities (Aldershot, UK, Ashgate Press 2008). His research interests include violence and violent crime, policing and urban order, crime and masculinities, hate crime and the politics of victimhood. Professor Tomsen is currently a chief investigator on an ARC funded study of the forms, regulation and policing of Sydney's night-time economy (The City after Dark: The Governance and Lived Experience of Urban Night-time Culture ARCDG DPO877906).