As previously reported, the Australia-wide crackdown on licensed venues and alcohol-related violence went into full effect this past weekend in Operation Unite, a NSW Police spearheaded initiative to stamp out booze-fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour occurring at licensed venues – pubs, clubs, bars, and live music venues alike.

Operation Unite saw more than 1,000 extra police officers mobilised across NSW, along with hundreds more across Australia’s state capitals this past weekend, the same time that the new changes to licensing laws went into effect in Kings Cross,  but reports from The Shout are in fact showing that criminal statistics have been dropping at a steady rate, despite the increased profile of restrictions and police presence.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR) released figures from their September quarterly report, showing ‘noteworthy trends’ in the reduction of assaults in hotels and pubs, down 11.8%, and incidents ‘involving glass’, down 17.9% across NSW – overall, a continuing drop in violence on licensed premises.

Paul Nicolaou, CEO of the Australian Hotel Association (AHA) of NSW, said the latest figures demonstrated a continued drop in crime and applauded NSW Police’s efforts. “In areas like City North (covering much of the Sydney CBD) we have seen incidents of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour dropping by almost 30 per cent in the last year alone,” said Mr Nicolaou.

Adding that AHA “have zero tolerance for violence on our licensed premises and look forward to working with police [during] Operation Unite.”

The steady drop in figures have been selectively ignored however, as the police roll out the Australia-wide Operation Unite as showing a zero tolerance approach to alcohol-related violence; just as the strict new rules for venues in Sydney’s Kings Cross are introduced. With the troubled late night district taking on the new ‘Special Licence Conditions’ last Friday 7 December.

As previously reported, the strict new regulations include weekend late night trading to cease one hour before closing time, ’round the clock’ incident registry and police notification, no bikies, shots, or cocktails on premises, and the banning of glass containers after midnight.

A result of the Liquor Amendment (Kings Cross Plan of Management) Bill 2012 that passed through Parliament in November, as The Shout details, the new bill will also see the introduction of new security measures, effective from Monday 17th December, that sees all venues required to record digital video imaging of entries, exits, and public areas (minus toilets) of their sites.

As Kings Cross Liquor Accord CEO Doug Grand notes however, the impetus should be shared between the 59 licensed premises affected by the new bill, and their patrons’ own safety and behaviour.

“The issue is violence in the public domain. Surely there has got to be a time when patrons’ own responsibility is examined more closely and that people are made responsible for their actions,” said Mr Grand.

Meanwhile, Operation Unite had an equally profound impact further north, with the Queensland leg of the weekend police blitz resulting in more than 440 charges and 28 arrests across the Sunshine State.

As the Courier Mail reports, almost 1,300 uniformed and plain-clothed officers were used in the two-day Operation Unite, tackling hot spots and popular late night music districts, like Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, to crack down on alcohol misuse, violence, and anti-social behaviour.

Deputy Commissioner for Specialist Operations Ross Barnett noted that on top of the arrests and charges, police also cracked down on licensed venues with 912 licensing breaches, as well as submitting 88 liquor incident reports and dished out 169 liquor infringement notices.

“The strong enforcement over Friday and Saturday nights shows police are serious in tackling alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour,” said Deputy Commissioner Barnett. “The operation is about making people feel safer and more secure – not curbing their enjoyment.”

Adding that: “People need to think about their own behaviour and start drinking in moderation. We all have choices and need to take responsibility for our actions. Our message is be safe. Go out, have a good time, but don’t let your fun get out of control.

The writing has been on the wall for licensed venues across the country, with Brisbane Police already calling for tougher venue restrictions as funding for the Government Drink Safe Precinct initiative drying up.

Meanwhile, Adelaide venues are staring down the barrel of tough restrictions in a new Late Night Trading Code of Practice, and the continued pressures on late night venues and live music hotspots across the Sydney CBD have all lead to the issue of alcohol-related violence becoming the chief concern for authorities across the country.

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