Luke Thomas, the co-ordinator of the Byron Bay Liquor Accord, responds to Byron Council’s decision to seek a trial 1am ‘lock out’ at licensed premises in the town:As the council has now made a motion that they want to put to the accord, the positive outcome of this is that the council will hopefully now take its role within the accord seriously and the mayor and other councillors will finally start to attend accord meetings on a regular basis and communicate to us the relevant issues they have.
The accord welcomes council’s considerably long-overdue involvement.
People I have spoken to in Geelong, Victoria including the police, council, and media repeatedly comment that for alcohol-related crime and community safety issues to be addressed effectively, the accord, police, the council and other relevant stakeholders must work together with a co-operative spirit and open mind to address these issues effectively for the greater good of the community.
The Geelong community is leading the country in adopting innovative strategies that help create a safe and prosperous community for all its residents, without the need to restrict the operations of any of its businesses, which would only result in significant job losses, particularly for young people.
The NSW Premier, the Liquor Control Authority and the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing consider curfews and trading restrictions as a measure of absolute last resort after a period of consultation fails to produce results. We are confident that this consultation process with council will now commence.
The figures for assault for 2009 are virtually identical to the figures for 2005, 2006 and 2007, so the five-year trend is stable. That is not to say we cannot dramatically reduce these statistics and we should.
However, the vast majority of assaults do not occur in late-licensed premises and to my knowledge are not even linked to any (NSW Police have a ‘Linking’ program, where in the event of alcohol-related crimes that do not occur on licensed premises, the offenders are asked where they have been drinking, and the subsequent crime may be linked to such premises).
At the last accord meeting in March, liquor licensing Const Grant Seddon stated that figures for assaults on premises were pretty good and that no premises in Byron were listed among the high-risk venues as recorded by the state government.
Therefore, the first step is to urgently try to establish a profile of the offenders and establish what the main sources of the problem are.
To date, no evidence or statistics have been presented to the accord to suggest that the majority of acts of violence occurring on the streets is directly attributable to late-trading venues.
Regardless, the accord will do everything within its powers to assist the police and the council to address this matter. In the meantime, council should support requests for CCTV coverage in town and better street lighting as it will significantly assist police by arming them with hard evidence to prosecute offenders as well as deterring people from committing the offences in the first place.
The NSW Premier and the Chief Commissioner of Police have stated that there needs to be local solutions to local problems. Byron Bay’s worst alcohol crime statistic for eight years has been drink-driving.
The Nightrider service is desperately needed by our residents for workers associated with the night-time economy as well as the people who want to go out; I therefore ask the mayor to, at the very least, assist the accord to source the funding and help with lobbying the NSW Minister for Transport.
I would also urge councillors and the police to speak with the relevant Geelong community members, not just to find out about what they are doing, but to also get a sense of the great pride that they have in their community and their achievements.
The most logical way forward would be not just to try and replicate what they are doing, but to create an environment of friendly competition among accords and communities around the country and reward those that achieve best possible practice in the management of community safety and the minimisation of harm caused to the community by alcohol.
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