NEWCASTLE had shed its reputation as a ‘‘bloodbath’’ after dark thanks to measures to cut alcohol-fuelled violence, the city’s top police officer said on Monday.
Newcastle City local area commander Superintendent John Gralton was one of the speakers at the Community Drug Action Team conference at City Hall.
Earlier, he told the Newcastle Herald that the city’s police were now hunting for trouble compared to previously being overwhelmed with violent and drunken behaviour.
“Five years ago the city was described as a bloodbath after dark,” he said.
“Now, anecdotally, my police are telling me there is far less violence in and around the city and the streets are calmer.
“Whereas previously they wouldn’t have had time to stop someone urinating on the streets because they were too busy dealing with violence, they now tell me they are hunting for people (causing trouble) in the streets.”
Superintendent Gralton highlighted figures released by Hunter New England population health director John Wiggers at the conference.
These figures showed Newcastle had maintained a 33 per cent reduction in reported assaults since bringing forward pub and club closing times to 3am in 2008.
“Since that time we’ve focused on consequence policing which means making sure someone receives a consequence for poor behaviour in the city,” Superintendent Gralton said, also crediting the group banning and scanning system in the city’s entertainment precinct and police and industry working closer together.
“We’ve also seen a significant reduction in malicious damage,” he said.
“We’re not the fun police; we want people to be enjoying the city and to feel comfortable when they go out.
“The city’s culture is changing.”
Associate Professor Peter Miller, of Deakin University, told the conference that Newcastle’s decline in booze-fuelled violence was related to less people indulging in heavy pre-loading sessions before going out.
He said a study which looked at Newcastle and Geelong found that it wasn’t unusual to consume a lot of alcohol - in extreme cases, up to 25 drinks – before they left home.
This quadrupled their chance of getting into a brawl.
“We conducted interviews with patrons and it showed changes in culture (in Newcastle) with declining levels of pre-drinking and people going out earlier,” he said.
The lock-out and earlier closing times meant people had to be in the city earlier, so could not drink as much at home.
The two-day conference will wrap up on Tuesda, with Dr Adrian Dunlop, the director of Hunter New England Health’s drug and alcohol clinical services, among the speakers.
See Associate Professor Peter Miller's powerpoint presentation here