Tuesday, May 6, 2008

And So It's Come to This: Curfew

Well it's official: starting June 3, no-one will be allowed (re-)entry into a Melbourne city club after 2am. The rationale is to reduce the number of drunk people wandering the streets from venue to venue late at night and thus, hopefully, to reduce the number of violent acts committed, which have apparently increased by 17% over the past year.

Ignoring the leap in logic inherent in this proposal that even Evil Knievel would struggle to clear, I want to focus on that number: 17%. That is not a statistically insignificant number. It surely cannot be explained as mere statistical noise, nor as some random, self-correcting fluctuation. There must be an underlying cause for such a sharp increase in crime.

Perhaps Melburnians have become 17% more violent over the past year? Perhaps they are drinking 17% more, or consuming 17% more drugs? Perhaps there has been a 17% increase in the number of violent, sociopathic disorders diagnosed over this time? Maybe some horrendously unlucky, statistically unlikely combination of all these factors?

Perhaps, but I doubt it.

There is only one event from the past year, that I can think of, that could possibly account for such a significant increase in violent street-crime: the new smoking laws. The merits of these laws aside, they have forced scores of drunk punters out of pubs and clubs around the city and out onto the streets, where the watchful eye of venue security no longer has any influence. Drunken congregations, without any moderating influence on behaviour, are traditionally quick to descend into violence. Is it any wonder the streets are less safe when we're essentially mandating that drunken groups of people form outside every licenced venue in the city?

That is why I'm struggling to understand the rationale of this new legislation. The hope ("hope" is the right word) is that keeping people who have been drinking out of licenced venues will encourage them to go home early, but if that fails to happen (and it doubtless will) all you're acheiving is forcing scores of drunken punters out onto the streets, making them angry (have you ever seen a drunk person try to reason with security when they've been denied entry to a venue? It is truly a thing of beauty...) and sending them off to wander the streets unsupervised, doubtless to congregate with all the others that have been turned away in the only places they are permitted to: fast food restaurants, the casino, suburban bars and clubs and so on. At least we'll be keeping the smokers inside venues for longer under this new plan, but surely - especially considering the vioation of civil liberties it engenders - they cannot possibly think that violence will be significantly reduced by keeping drunk people away from safe, secure venues?

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