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Impact of policing strategies in the Australian Capital Territory

As outlined earlier, the assessment of the short-term impact of the strategies implemented by ACTP over the 2009–10 summer period in this report covers:

  • findings from interviews with ACTP and licensees examining their views with respect to the effectiveness of recent strategies;
  • a comparison of recorded offences in the intervention area (Civic) compared with the control area (Manuka/Kingston);
  • a comparison of findings from the observational research undertaken by AIC staff in the Civic and Manuka/Kingston entertainment precincts before and after the intervention periods; and
  • an analysis of data from the survey of community perceptions, and in particular, respondents views regarding the state of alcohol-related problems in the Australian Capital Territory post-intervention period.

Methodological limitations

The short-term impact of ACTP strategies targeting licensed premises regarding compliance with liquor licensing legislation, alcohol-related violence and community safety is difficult to determine for a number of reasons:

  • The AIC was unable to reach agreement with ACTP or determine from the information available the precise nature of key evidence-based strategies and clearly defined intervention period that were to be subject to the evaluation.
  • A number of ACTP strategies were delivered at the same time as one another and at the same time as strategies delivered by other agencies in the same locations. For example, it was reported that there was an increased number of walkthroughs being conducted by ORS. This makes it difficult to determine the specific impact of each individual strategy delivered by ACTP in Civic during the intervention period.
  • The AIC identified a number of different sources of data maintained by ACTP and ORS that would help to build an understanding of the level and trends in alcohol-related crime and impact on policing. However, there were limitations with this data such that it was difficult to identify alcohol-related offences, particularly those involving or located near to licensed premises, or the precise level and nature of action taken against licensed premises in the Civic and Manuka/Kingston entertainment precincts. Further, not all data that was identified was made available to the AIC in a format suitable for the purpose of the current evaluation.
  • The AIC instituted a number of new data collection tools and while they will help to inform a longer term project, they were not implemented in full before and after the implementation of the strategies currently being evaluated.

These issues have been taken into consideration when describing the results from an analysis of data collected by the AIC for the purpose of this evaluation. While they limit the ability to draw conclusions regarding the specific impact of each component of the ACTP approach, it has been possible to draw general conclusions regarding the overall effectiveness of the ACTP approach. These are outlined below.

Compliance with liquor licensing legislation

Evidence with respect to trends in compliance with liquor licensing legislation and regulations is largely anecdotal. ACTP and ORS inspectors reported that a sustained campaign targeted at premises during busy trading periods in 2009–10 had delivered noticeable improvements in compliance with liquor licensing conditions, particularly as they related to the management of premises (as opposed to serving practices). ACTP officers provided examples where they had successfully negotiated with individual licensees to eliminate serving practices that would result in breaches of licensing provisions, such as the sale of large quantities of alcohol in short periods of time, but acknowledged that licensees continued to serve alcohol to intoxicated patrons. The AIC observed large numbers of patrons showing clear signs of intoxication in and around licensed premises, many of whom were still being served alcohol, before and during the intervention period.

Overall, it appeared as though licensees perceived that there was little risk associated with non-compliance and that the consequences for breaching licensing provisions were minimal. This is an important finding. Legislation and enforcement is more likely to be effective in improving compliance where there is a high-risk that non-compliance will be detected, that penalties for non-compliance will be imposed, that these penalties outweigh the financial benefits of non-compliance and that these penalties are both immediate and widely publicised to other premise operators (Grube & Nygaard 2005; NDRI 2007).

ACTP and ORS reported that it was difficult to prosecute licensees for breaches that were more difficult to substantiate under existing regulations. This includes serving intoxicated patrons which is, according to some police and ORS investigators (under existing requirements), an extremely difficult breach to establish for ACAT. This might explain why ORS indicate that their high-risk targets for breaches include:

  • unlicensed security;
  • occupancy loading;
  • underage patrons;
  • fake identification among patrons; and
  • fire exit hazards.

These breaches are relatively straightforward to identify and support with evidence. According to the most recent data supplied to the AIC by ORS (for the period January to September 2008), 13 matters were dealt with by the Liquor Board involving 10 premises and 26 alleged breaches. None of these breaches related to the service of alcohol to intoxicated patrons. Based on the findings from the AIC’s observational research and interviews with licensees and ACTP (albeit in relation to a different time period), it is more than likely that significantly more breaches occurred during this time period but were not identified, recorded and/or prosecuted.

According to some licensees, in addition to the lack of a significant deterrent to non-compliance, the ease with which a liquor license can be granted under existing legislation leads to inexperienced licensees who are more likely to breach regulations, whether through deliberate action or because they are not aware of their obligations with respect to licensing regulations. For example, one experienced licensee commented that:

[o]btaining an alcohol liquor license in Canberra is so easy it only costs a couple thousand dollars. Rather than putting on a live band or good food to get people in the premises they put on cheap alcohol, which really isn’t a good thing. The other thing in Canberra is the set up situation where any shop can become a licensed premise. People set them up on nothing and the reality is this industry is not that profitable so when people start to struggle they discount the alcohol. [It also leads to] places cutting costs and may also not have the required number of security staff (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Another licensee confirmed this view:

There are too many licensees and it is too easy to obtain a license these days. As long as you don’t have a criminal record you can get a license and there are just too many licenses in the one area [Civic area]. New licensees [should] have twelve month probation [period] (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Views such as these among licensees operating in the Civic precinct suggest that lack of compliance by some licensees is more likely a consequence of limitations with existing legislation and regulations, as opposed to a failure to effectively police these regulations. Changes in legislation, such as the requirement for applications for new licenses to include a risk assessment management plan (which outlines the procedures, practices and arrangements for the operation of the licensed premise), may help to address perceptions that unqualified, inexperienced and unprepared owners are entering the business.

Responsible service of alcohol and other management practices

Many licensees indicated that they supported RSA and were positive about the proposed legislative changes. However, during the fieldwork, the research team observed that many patrons often continued to consume alcoholic drinks, despite being heavily intoxicated. At a number of licensed premises there were patrons who were visibly intoxicated (eg they exhibited loud behaviour, slurred speech and stumbling) while in possession of an alcoholic beverage. It is possible that friends or other patrons were purchasing the drinks for these intoxicated patrons, which several licensees discussed as being a difficult problem to manage. Under the proposed legislation this type of behaviour would be liable, which is a move endorsed by most licensees.

Other management practices were generally supported by licensees and their managers, including refusing entry to intoxicated patrons. Although this was seldom observed being implemented, one security manager commented how their best method of avoiding antisocial patron behaviour was to be rigorous on the front door when admitting patrons into the premises (Security personal communication 2010).

In general, licensees supported management practices that have been shown to minimise the risk of alcohol-related violence, including the responsible service of alcohol. In practice, evidence as to whether these practices were being implemented was inconsistent and highlighted some of the practical barriers associated with enforcing strict management practices, such as refusing service or entry to intoxicated and potentially aggressive patrons.

Patterns of consumption and problematic drinking behaviour

Alcohol is one of the most prevalent social issues among young people, with a large number drinking at levels which place them at risk of short or long-term alcohol-related harm (Muir et al. 2009) A recent national survey found that a significant proportion of young Australians drink at high-risk levels at least once a month (AIHW 2008). In the Australian Capital Territory, one in five persons over the age of 14 drink at risky high-risk levels for short-term alcohol-related harm at least once a month (AIHW 2009). Persons aged 20–29 years are most likely to drink at risky or high-risk levels. Among young people between the ages of 18 and 24 years who drink alcohol, a significant proportion consume five or more standard drinks on an average drinking occasion (52% males and 37% females; Muir et al. 2009).

There is no reliable measure of patron consumption to enable an assessment of comparative rates pre- and post-police intervention as part of the current project. However, observations conducted by AIC researchers post-intervention demonstrated that there was a high level of intoxication among patrons both inside and outside of licensed premises in Civic and Manuka/Kingston.

The pattern of consumption and problematic drinking behaviour among patrons is viewed by all stakeholders as one of the main issues that need to be addressed in the Civic area. There are several factors that warrant further consideration in attempting to understand the capacity of police to influence patron drinking behaviour. These factors, described below in more detail, include:

  • attitudes towards alcohol and a culture of ‘drinking to get drunk’;
  • responsibility of the patron;
  • discounted drinks and promotions; and
  • preloading.

While conducting observations, AIC researchers noticed that there were several occasions in different premises where patrons were clearly intoxicated and continuing to consume alcohol. In one instance, a female patron was physically ill and had to be carried outside by a friend. Other premises had the distinct smell of bleach that had been used to clean up after patrons. Moreover, multiple areas of the Civic entertainment precinct had been visibly soiled by intoxicated patrons. This evidence suggests that problematic drinking behaviour continues to be prevalent among patrons visiting the Civic entertainment precinct.

Attitudes towards alcohol and a culture of ‘drinking to get drunk’

The most significant challenge to addressing problematic drinking behaviour is the well-established drinking culture in Australia of ‘drinking to get drunk’ (Alcohol Working Group 2009). The need to address this issue is reflected in the National Alcohol Strategy, the goal of which is to prevent and minimise alcohol-related harm to individuals, families and communities in the context of developing safer and healthy drinking cultures in Australia (MCDS 2006). A key part of this strategy focuses on young Australians and concerns over young people drinking to excess (MCDS 2006). All stakeholders involved in this project, including police, ORS and licensees commented on the drinking culture as an issue that needed to be addressed. Some licensees indicated that the key issues for the industry revolved around ‘the public, the government and the licensed venues. [W]ith the public, the need to address a drinking culture probably starts and ends there’ (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Another licensee asked:

Why is there this social pressure in our society to get drunk? Why can’t people enjoy a few glasses of good wine or not feel like that have to drink at all? (Licensee personal communication 2010)

Other licensees were more specific when discussing this issue, focusing on the behaviour of young people:

Young people, if they have $100 in their pockets [and they are going drinking somewhere holding promotions or cheap drinks] do not think, oh excellent, it’s cheap night therefore my night will only cost me half as much, they think excellent I can now drink twice as much (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Another licensee noted that patrons’ drinking patterns are also linked with the patron having no responsibility for their actions (discussed below):

One of the issues is that people have become accustomed to being told when they have had enough to drink, so people will just drink to excess and wait until the bar staff tell them they can’t have anymore (Licensee personal communication 2010).

The relationship between societal attitudes and values and alcohol-related harm has been well established (Graham et al. 1998). The Australian Capital Territory is not alone in terms of having to address the culture of ‘drinking to get drunk’. Addressing this problem requires a combination of effective police enforcement and legislative responses (supply reduction) and encouraging and promoting responsible drinking behaviour (demand reduction).

Responsibility of the patron

Many of the licensees who were interviewed argued that to improve patterns in drinking behaviour and alcohol consumption some onus and responsibility needed to be placed on the patron. Police recognise that such views are important facilitators and catalysts for improving the police response. Licensees highlighted the difficulty in dealing with some unruly patrons when refused service for being intoxicated, because at present, there are no repercussions (such as formal sanctions) for negative behaviour. Aspects of the new legislation place greater responsibility on the patron (see Liquor Act 2010 Part 8 Division 8.2 s 100). This was supported by most licensees:

Yes they need to put a bit more back on the patrons and they need to do that here, everybody still needs to be responsible for their own actions and just because you’re out drinking shouldn’t matter (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Another licensee indicated that ‘some onus needs to be put back on the patrons with underage people or intoxicated people needing to face penalties just like licensees’ (Licensee personal communication 2010).

A member of security at one licensed premise also indicated their support for making the patron more responsible as they noted that most of the problems occurred at the front door and they had to screen out potential intoxicated troublemakers:

Unfortunately people seem pretty naive and they don’t seem very educated about what the rules are, and they think you make up the rules on the fly because we are asshole bouncers. This seems to be the mentality against security staff. When people do get refused service or entry they do take a great deal of offence to this and [this leads] them to get violent and unfortunately there is nothing out there for the responsibility of the general public. They come into the situation very naive (Security personal communication 2010).

The response of this security team member of a prominent licensed premise demonstrates support for the proposed changes to the new legislation and also touches on an important issue of education. As one licensee specified:

It’s all good to have these changes to the legislation but the patron needs to know about them as well and this is the most important thing. They have to be aware of their responsibilities as well before they can be fined (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Despite these views, not all licensees were supportive of this new approach of holding patrons more accountable:

Rather than too much onus being put back on patrons where they will be liable for fines I would just rather see management, police or ORS speak to people and just ask them why they are carrying on like this...No need to fine people you just have to point out how much of idiots they might be acting like and how they have ruined everyone’s night and they usually realise then what they have done (Licensee personal communication 2010).

This view is supported by the evidence, which shows that the most effective policing response involves the enforcement of unruly patron behaviour, combined with targeted enforcement directed at problematic venues informed by a reliable evidence base (Doherty & Roche 2003). This highlights the importance of a balanced approach.

Licensees and discounted drinks compounding the issue

Another significant issue relates to the discounting of drinks and/or drinks promotions, which may lead to problematic drinking behaviour. Both the police and ORS agree that this is a major issue, particularly because it encourages patterns of problematic drinking behaviour. The practice of advertising and selling ‘cheap drinks’ is viewed by police, ORS and licensees as one of the major contributing factors to alcohol-related problems in the Civic area. One licensee commented that:

Targeting cheap nights and discounted drinks is one way to go about this. The level of discounting just does not happen in Sydney and you have a number of restrictions just as you can’t go lower than half price and loading limits get reduced. Whereas here [ACT] it’s just a free for all (Licensee personal communication 2010).

ACTP Crime Prevention has attempted to address this issue through a range of strategies, including monitoring websites and social network pages (such as Facebook). However, the restrictions on drinks promotions in the Australian Capital Territory are not perceived by stakeholders to be very rigid. For instance, one licensee felt strongly that:

The $2 drink deals some places are doing is just ridiculous. Going back to discounted alcohol [as a problem], people are selling jugs of spirits and people are drinking it and its not quality alcohol but people still drink it (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Another licensee stated that:

On top of this the alcohol in many places involves extreme discounting such as $2 drinks or $3 drinks, these places are selling at a loss for drinks like Smirnoff black that sells for 3.86 a unit. They are just trying to get people in and they are therefore also encouraging binge drinking (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Appropriate legislation restricting the sale of cheap drinks or advertising drink promotions, supported by strong and reliable enforcement, is required to address this issue. Section 137 of the new Liquor Act 2010 prohibits the promotion of alcohol that encourages rapid and excessive consumption of liquor. Properly enforced, this should limit the ability of premises to advertise discounted drinks. Maintaining high levels of communication between ACTP and licensees is also important in encouraging greater levels of compliance.

However, the new legislation has been criticised for not including a provision to impose restrictions on the sale of certain beverages (specifically those with a high alcohol content or which are consumed rapidly) that may also encourage the rapid or excessive consumption of alcohol, a strategy that has been used with some success in other jurisdictions (Jones et al. 2009). Furthermore, discounted drinks may still be sold and this is likely to continue in areas where there is a high density of licensed premises and a high level of competition between business operators.


Preloading is the consumption of large quantities of alcohol by patrons prior to visiting pubs, clubs and nightclubs. It usually occurs in private residences, recreational areas or restaurants. Preloading is an important issue that impacts on the management of entertainment precincts (Nicholas 2010), particularly since it has been demonstrated that individuals who consume large quantities of alcohol prior to visiting entertainment precincts are more likely to be involved in a violent or aggressive incident (Hughes et al. 2008).

Evidence in relation to this issue was mixed. Police, ORS and licensed premise operators reported that it was a significant problem among patrons visiting licensed premises in Civic, particularly among those patrons arriving late at night. Anecdotal reports from licensees suggested that this type of behaviour seemed to affect those premises that were open later. Evidence from the PLD forms appeared to contradict this finding, with data collected suggesting that in the majority of incidents, the PLD was also the location at which individuals had consumed the majority of their alcohol.

Licensees argued that preloading was a difficult issue for them to address. Some licensees considered that the cheap prices of supermarket-bought alcohol contributed to preloading. For example, one licensee believed that:

[p]reloading is another issue we have to be aware about as there is a large trend in the last few years which is outside the control of licensed premises, this is cheap alcohol from alcohol supermarkets where cases of Corona [beer] are cheaper than what they are for me to buy wholesale (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Effective screening processes (ie refusing entry to visibly intoxicated patrons) are an important strategy in managing this problem. However, strategies targeting problematic licensed premises may only have a limited impact on the problems associated with preloading (Nicholas 2010). Further, there are potential unintentional consequences whereby strategies that effectively reduce problematic drinking within licensed premises displace drinking to alternative locations—particularly private residences (Nicholas 2010). There are a range of practical barriers to effectively intervening to prevent the excessive consumption of alcohol and alcohol-related violence in private settings (Morgan & McAtamney 2009). Coupled with the finding that the majority of individuals involved in incidents recorded by PLD forms had consumed the majority of their alcohol in the place they had consumed their last drink, there may be greater returns from strategies that focus on reducing the excessive consumption of alcohol and service of alcohol to intoxicated patrons in license patrons. The potential displacement of problems to other locations would still need to be carefully considered, providing further justification for a coordinated approach that involves supply, demand and harm reduction strategies delivered by a range of agencies working in close partnership.

Levels of alcohol-related harm

The impact of ACTP strategies on the level of alcohol-related harm has already been examined in terms of compliance with liquor licensing legislation and patron drinking behaviour. This section covers the impact on alcohol-related violence and perceptions of crime and safety.

Alcohol-related violence

A key indicator of alcohol-related harm in the Australian Capital Territory is the prevalence of assault. This section of the report therefore examines trends in recorded assault offences to determine whether ACTP strategies delivered over the October 2009 to March 2010 period had any impact on the level of violence in the Civic entertainment precinct.

Figure 7 shows the number of recorded assault offences per month in Civic and Kingston/Manuka from July 2005 until March 2010. It shows that following the introduction of the ACTP strategies in the city, there was a sharp decline in the number of recorded assault offences, which contrasted with relative stability in the (albeit small) number of assaults in Kingston/Manuka at the same time. The number of recorded assaults in November 2009 (n=15) was the lowest number of assaults for any month since mid 2006. However, the trend was short-lived as there was a sharp increase in the number of recorded assaults in January 2010.

Figure 7: Recorded assault offences in Civic and Kingston/Manuka July 2005–March 2010, by month (n)

 figure 7

Note: Assault includes aggravated assault, non-aggravated assault and assault police. Excludes other acts intended to cause injury. Civic includes all offences recorded as having occurred in the city. Kingston/Manuka includes all offences recorded as having occurred in Kingston and streets located within the Manuka entertainment precinct (including Bougainville St, Canberra Ave, Captain Cook Ct, Flinders Way, Franklin St, Furneaux St and Palmerston Lane)

Source: ACT PROMIS database

It is useful to compare the number of recorded assault offences per month during the intervention period with previous years. The results are displayed in Figure 8. This shows that there were fewer assaults in November and December 2009 when compared with the average number of recorded assault offences during the same period for the previous four years. However, in January and February 2010, the number of recorded assault offences was the same (or higher) than the average for previous years.

Figure 8: Recorded assault offences in Civic 2009–10, by month (n)

 figure 8

Note: Assault includes aggravated assault, non-aggravated assault and assault police. Excludes other acts intended to cause injury. Average for previous years refers to average number of offences in each month in the 4 year period from July 2005 to June 2009. Civic includes all offences recorded as having occurred in the city

Source: ACT PROMIS database

The equivalent results for Kingston/Manuka are presented in Figure 9. These results need to be interpreted with caution, given the relatively small number of assaults recorded each month. Apparent fluctuations may be the result of a small increase or decrease in the number of recorded assaults per month. Nevertheless, it shows a similar pattern of recorded assaults in the intervention period as for Civic.

Figure 9: Recorded assault offences in Kingston Manuka 2009–10, by month (n)

 figure 9

Note: Assault includes aggravated assault, non-aggravated assault and assault police. Excludes other acts intended to cause injury. Average for previous years refers to average number of offences in each month in the 4 year period from July 2005 to June 2009. Kingston/Manuka includes all offences recorded as having occurred in Kingston and streets located within the Manuka entertainment precinct (including Bougainville St, Canberra Ave, Captain Cook Ct, Flinders Way, Franklin St, Furneaux St and Palmerston Lane)

Source: ACT PROMIS database

To determine whether the pattern observed in Civic reflects an overall trend in assaults across the Australian Capital Territory, it is necessary to examine trends in the remainder of the ACT region (ie excluding Civic and Kingston/Manuka). These results are outlined in Figure 10. This shows that there was a similar pattern of an initial decline in November and December 2009, followed by an increase in the number of assaults recorded in the region in January 2010. However, the difference between the number of recorded assaults in November and December 2009 compared with the average for previous years is greater for Civic (a decline of 40% compared with the 4 year average) than for the rest of the Australian Capital Territory (17%).

Figure 10: Recorded assault offences in Australian Capital Territory (excluding Civic and Kingston/Manuka) 2009–10, by month (n)


Note: Assault includes aggravated assault, non-aggravated assault and assault police. Excludes other acts intended to cause injury. Average for previous years refers to average number of offences in each month in the four year period from July 2005 to June 2009. Civic includes all offences recorded as having occurred in the city. Kingston/Manuka includes all offences recorded as having occurred in Kingston and streets located within the Manuka entertainment precinct (including Bougainville St, Canberra Ave, Captain Cook Ct, Flinders Way, Franklin St, Furneaux St and Palmerston Lane)

Source: ACT PROMIS database

Overall, this suggests that the strategies delivered by ACTP in Civic may have had a short-term impact on the number of recorded assaults offences in that location. As outlined earlier, it is difficult to draw a causal link between police interventions and the drop in assaults, or to determine which of the strategies delivered over the summer period may have contributed to the fall in recorded offences. Other factors that may have produced this include changes in reporting rates, events, or even weather patterns. Further, the reduction was not sustained beyond December 2009, with a sudden (and above average) increase in the number of recorded assaults in Civic in January 2010. The short-term fall in recorded assault offences may have also been the result of the initial approach by ACTP Crime Prevention to approach and engage licensed premises and inform them of their obligations and penalties associated with breaches of liquor licensing legislation, but which was not subsequently supported by a strong and ongoing enforcement component (beyond mid December 2009). This is consistent with research from previous studies, which has demonstrated that strategies such as liquor accords (similar in many ways to the ACTP approach) must be supported by a strong and sustained enforcement component (Haines & Graham 2005; NDRI 2007).

Perceptions of crime and safety

The actual and perceived level of alcohol-related crime in entertainment precincts can have a negative impact on community safety and public amenity, and this impact can extend well beyond those who have been directly involved or affected by an incident (Nicholas 2006). An important goal of strategies targeting licensed premises is to therefore increase perceptions of safety in and around licensed premises among patrons, bar staff, other business operators and the wider community.

The AIC online community survey does not permit pre- and post-intervention comparisons of perceptions of crime and safety in the Civic and Manuka/Kingston entertainment precincts, because it was only implemented on one occasion towards the end of the intervention period (ie post-intervention). It does, however, enable a retrospective analysis of respondents’ perceptions during the intervention period compared with the previous 12 months. It also provides useful data that can inform future decision-making with respect to strategies designed to improve perceptions of safety and a baseline against which to (potentially) measure change over time.

As shown in Figure 11, 80 percent of respondents indicated that crime in the Civic region over the previous 12 months was higher than average when compared with the greater metropolitan region. Approximately 35 percent of respondents reported that crime in the Kingston/Manuka region over the previous 12 months was higher than average when compared with the greater metropolitan region. In other words, respondents were more likely to perceive the Civic entertainment precinct as having higher than average levels of crime than the Kingston/Manuka precinct, but a substantial proportion perceived both areas to have higher than average crime levels.

Figure 11: Perception of crime over the past 12 months in Civic and Kingston/Manuka entertainment precincts compared with the greater Canberra region (%) (n=85)

 figure 11

Source: AIC online survey

A large number of respondents appeared to perceive crime as having increased in Civic (50%) and Kingston/Manuka (25%). This is despite evidence suggesting that the level of assault had remained relatively stable or, in the period immediately following the implementation of strategies described in this report, declined. Thirty-five percent of respondents reported that they believed the level of crime in Civic was about the same and 45 percent reported that the level of crime in Kingston/Manuka had also remained about the same compared with 12 months ago (see Figure 12).

Figure 12: Perceptions of crime compared with 12 months ago in Civic and Kingston/ Manuka entertainment precincts (%) (n=85)

figure 12

Source: AIC online survey

Taken together, these responses suggest that a significant proportion of respondents believed that crime in entertainment precincts in Canberra is increasing. Qualitative survey responses indicated that respondents felt that violence and (more specifically) alcohol-related violence were the main issues within the Civic area. Seventy percent of respondents stated that alcohol-related violence was a significant problem in Civic and 44 percent reported that it was a significant problem in Kingston/Manuka (see Figure 13). Few respondents to the survey perceived alcohol-related violence as being neither somewhat of a problem or a significant problem. The majority of respondents also considered that drunk and disorderly behaviour was a significant problem or somewhat of a problem in either the Civic or the Kingston/Manuka entertainment precincts (see Figure 14).

Figure 13: Perception of alcohol-related violence as a crime problem in Civic and Kingston/Manuka entertainment precincts (%) (n=74)

 figure 13

Source: AIC online survey

Figure 14: Perception of drunken and disorderly behaviour as a crime problem in Civic and Kingston/Manuka entertainment precincts (%) (n=74)

 figure 14

Source: AIC online survey

It is worth noting that there was considerable local media surrounding the issue of alcohol-related violence both during and prior to the intervention period. This included a series of articles on the problems associated with alcohol, which reported data from a range of sources, including ACTP. As well as reflecting growing concern around the level of violence, particularly in entertainment precincts, the focus on alcohol-related violence also coincided with the review of the Liquor Act 1975. This increased attention and publicising of alcohol-related problems may have had a negative impact on perceptions on crime and safety, particularly in view of research findings that have shown broadcast and tabloid media provide the major source of information for most members of the public about crime and justice (Roberts & Indermaur 2009).

However, the perceived problems associated with alcohol may not be entirely attributed to the reporting of alcohol-related crime. Approximately three-quarters (77%) of respondents reported they had, at some point in the previous 12 months, felt intimidated by the presence of a person under the influence of alcohol when visiting Civic (see Figure 15). Overall, survey respondents were more likely to report that alcohol-related violence and drunk and disorderly behaviour was ‘somewhat of a problem’ in Kingston/Manuka and a ‘significant problem’ in Civic. This is consistent with the level of alcohol-related violence in each location and reflects the relative differences in the number and density of licensed premises and number of patrons visiting each precinct each weekend. Interestingly, this is in contrast with the views of several licensees, who reported during interviews that alcohol-related violence in Civic had actually improved in recent years:

The level of violence in Civic is nowhere near as bad as it was 5 or 10 years ago, it’s not even close to how bad it was back then (Licensee personal communication 2010).

Taken as a whole, these findings provide little evidence to suggest that the interventions delivered by ACTP had an impact on the perceptions of community safety among those individuals who responded to the survey. This is an important issue, as increased fear of crime is associated with decreased confidence in the criminal justice system (Roberts & Indermaur 2009).

Figure 15: Felt intimidated by the presence of a person under the influence of alcohol in Civic and Kingston/Manuka entertainment precincts (%) (n=74)

 figure 15

Source: AIC online survey

Strategies targeting the actual level of alcohol-related violence in entertainment precincts in the Australian Capital Territory will most likely have some impact on perceptions of crime and safety among the wider population. However, strategies specifically designed to improved perceptions of safety are also required, particularly so as to ensure that the community does not overestimate the level of crime and violence and risk to personal safety. According to licensees, high-visibility policing was an effective strategy for improving the public’s perception of safety in both areas, particularly among patrons and visitors. Seeing more police out on patrol or multiple vehicles parked nearby may help to improve perceptions of safety and security. Well-targeted social marketing strategies, supported by effective communication and information-sharing practices with local media, may also help address this problem (Homel & Carroll 2009).

Last updated
3 November 2017