The media hysteria that drove the New South Wales government to crack down on a supposed epidemic of alcohol-driven violence in inner Sydney over summer occurred as assaults fell to their lowest level in the city since the 1990s.
New figures for the last quarter of 2013 for NSW, released at the start of April by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, were mostly ignored by the media, and particularly Fairfax, whose journalists and editors campaigned hard in January to portray Sydney as swamped by a rising tide of violence and drinking. The O'Farrell government eventually succumbed to the campaign and brought in arbitrary new drinking restrictions, minimum sentences for some offences (the proposed minimum sentences remain stalled in the NSW Legislative Council), and elevated sentences associated with steroid sales to levels equivalent to hard narcotics.
But according to data up to December 2013 released by BOCSAR
, ex-premier Barry O'Farrell in fact had presided over a significant drop in violence in the city to levels unseen for over a decade.
Last year was the least violent year in Sydney in BOCSAR's online records, which go back to 1998, with the "inner Sydney" subsection recording 4215 non-domestic violence assaults, compared to 4405 in 2012. Violence peaked in Sydney in 2002, when 5382 assaults were recorded; since then, assaults had fallen on average by over 2% every year. The month in which the media campaign began gearing up was the quietest December on record, with 386 assaults recorded, the first time fewer than 400 assaults were recorded in December; 10 years ago, the December number was over 500.
And these numbers refer to actual incidents, rather than the "incident rate", which accounts for population. Over the last decade while assaults have fallen by 20%, the population of the Sydney local government area has swollen 32% ...
Annual number of assaults (inner-Sydney)