Sydney lockouts: Assaults 'displaced' to suburbs around CBD and Kings Cross

Assaults have risen in areas around the lockout precincts in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross, according to figures providing the first clear evidence that the laws are displacing violence to neighbouring suburbs.

A report on the effect of the lockout laws, to be released on Monday, shows for the first time a statistically significant increase in assaults in areas next to or within easy reach of the lockout areas.

This includes Ultimo, Surry Hills and The Star casino in Pyrmont, along with Bondi Beach, Coogee, Double Bay and Newtown.

The report from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) will provide ammunition to critics of the changes, who have long argued the lockout laws would displace violence to nearby areas.

But the drop in assaults inside the lockout areas is still much greater than the increase in surrounding areas, the report shows.

Previous BOCSAR reports had shown a decrease in assaults in neighbouring suburbs – or no statistically significant increase – after the 1.30am lockout laws and 3am last drinks laws took effect in February 2014.


The laws have since been relaxed by half an hour under a two-year trial that kicked off in January.

But BOCSAR said the new figures, which include the first 32 months of the laws to September last year, "found evidence for geographical displacement of assaults to areas immediately adjacent to the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD areas" along with suburbs within "easy reach" of those precincts.

Assaults increased in those areas by a combined 299 after the laws took effect.

This translated to a 12 per cent increase in areas adjacent to the lockout precincts, including The Star and venues around Ultimo and Surry Hills, and a 17 per cent increase in easy-to-reach suburbs including Double Bay, Newtown and Bondi.

At the same time, assaults inside the lockout precincts declined by 930, which represented a 49 per cent drop in Kings Cross and a 13 per cent drop in the Sydney CBD.

"While this suggests there has been a shift in violence away from the target sites to the surrounding areas, it should be remembered that the reductions in assault in the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD far outweigh the observed increases in the displacement sites; supporting the conclusion that, overall, there was a net reduction in violence during the 32-month post-reform period," the report said.

Nevertheless, BOCSAR said it was "of concern" that the evidence showed some displacement of violence to suburbs outside the lockout areas and it "cannot be assumed" the initial positive impact inside the lockout areas would be maintained over the longer term.

The bureau's director, Don Weatherburn, said it appeared the effects of the lockout laws had not yet fully played out.

BOCSAR concluded that "continued research is needed to monitor if displacement of these assaults increases further".

The state government announced in December that it would trial a relaxation of the lockout and last drinks laws, with the cut-off times extended by half an hour to 2am and 3.30am respectively.

The two-year trial, which followed a review of the laws by former High Court judge Ian Callinan, started in January.

The bureau said its results "suggest that any loosening of the restrictions in the precincts may also carry significant risks for the broader inner Sydney area and for entertainment areas within easy reach of the CBD".

Licensees in the lockout zones have complained business has plummeted and groups such as Keep Sydney Open say Sydney's late-night and live-music culture has been destroyed as a result of the changes.