Glassing attacks on the rise
Email Printer friendly version Normal font Large font John Kidman
June 29, 2008
A GLASSING attack happens somewhere in NSW every nine hours.
A drinking glass or bottle was the weapon used in 994 assaults across the state last year, Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures reveal.
That's a 70 per cent increase on the 584 glassings recorded in 1998 and it comes at a time when the rates of murder, robbery and most violent crimes are steady or declining.
Reinforcing the perception that attacks are overwhelmingly fuelled by alcohol, more than eight in 10 - or 815 - of last year's attacks occurred in and around hotels and other licensed premises, not in domestic violence situations.
The majority of attacks took place in Sydney, with 411 in Wollongong, Newcastle or elsewhere in the state.
Publication of the data comes before tough new laws that from Tuesday give the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing stronger powers to deal with problem venues and unruly patrons.
Under the regime, anyone wanting to open a pub, club or bottleshop, or extend trading hours, will have to undergo a community impact test. Fines for operators caught supplying alcohol to minors will double and owners could face 12 months' jail.
In a joint stance with senior police from around Australia, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione last month nominated alcohol-related violence as the force's "number one priority".
Mr Scipione, a noted teetotaller, described the state as "drowning in alcohol" but named central Sydney and Newcastle as trouble spots.
Manly police will enforce a 2.30am lockout at hotels on the suburb's famous Corso from August in a bid to curb drunken aggression, and a three-month trial ban on premixed alcopops has been instituted to discourage binge drinking.
After a string of glassing attacks in Newcastle, the NSW Licensing Court imposed a 3am curfew on more than a dozen inner-city licensed venues in April in an attempt to head off late-night violence.
Some Wollongong hotels have also switched voluntarily to earlier closing times and at least one introduced plastic cups in the wake of three glassing attacks in less than two years.
James Arvanitakis, a cultural researcher at the University of Western Sydney, said the glassing statistics supported the theory of a rise in some violence-specific offences linked to time poverty, competitiveness and stress.
"People aren't just growing meaner, we're getting worn down by traffic congestion, crowding, petrol prices, poor services and a whole range of issues," he said. "And what appears to be a spontaneous outburst actually involves a build-up of extreme frustration or anger."
The director of trauma at St Vincent's Hospital Dr Tony Grabs recently told The Sun-Herald the number of people treated for injuries from alcohol- and drug-related violence had risen dramatically.
Of 120 patients admitted between October 2003 and September 2004 following an assault or stabbing, 54 were alcohol- or drug-related, he said. But between October 2006 and September last year the number of admissions was 197, and those related to drink or drugs had nearly doubled to 90. Other attacks did not result in admissions.
Latest crime and justice figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show almost half of NSW residents believe there to be a crime or public nuisance problem in their neighbourhood. Those who consider public drunkenness an issue have increased from 14 per cent to 19 per cent over the past eight years.