Portrait of John Hinchey, victims of crime commissioner. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
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The thugs who take to the city's streets after dark have no conscience.
John Hinchey is sure of that.
He has seen the worst consequences of their violence through his work as the Victims of Crime Commissioner.
His organisation has supported brain-damaged victims, their entire lives destroyed by a single drunken punch likely thrown over a grievance forgotten by the morning.
Mr Hinchey doubts the perpetrators would even care if they saw the impacts they'd had on some of the victims he has supported.
But he has a message, regardless.
"It doesn't make them men," he said. "It's a weak thing to do … No one thinks you're a big man if you go up and start hitting people for no reason."
ACT Policing is conducting a blitz on alcohol-related crime this weekend as part of Operation Unite, which will see increased police numbers and a publicity campaign to draw awareness to the issue.
It is often the behaviour of a select group of individuals that is blamed in discussions on alcohol-related violence. Yet it can be difficult for many to understand just why someone would willingly go out looking to start a fight.
One study, published by the Youth Coalition of the ACT in 2010, made a concerted effort to understand the phenomenon.
The report, Dutch Courage: Young People, Alcohol and Alcohol Related Violence, used focus groups of young Canberrans to discuss their experiences, perceptions and attitudes towards alcohol-related violence.
The Youth Coalition found the vast majority of young Canberran drinkers wanted to avoid conflict and its negative consequences. They labelled these people as Group A.
But a second group, Group B, had a vastly different relationship with alcohol and violence. These people used violence for empowerment, to obtain status and to "claim a legitimate identity".
For Canberra's "tough guys" a lot appeared to rest on their reputation, and also on telling stories of their drunken exploits to mates.
The report authors asked young people whether they thought violence was valued in the ACT.
"One hundred per cent it is. Canberra has this really weird culture of like, if you're, like, a crazy dude and you fight, people will know who you are," one young man responded. "There is this mad culture behind it, like 'he is a crazy dude I want to be friends with him'. You know what I mean? Yeah, and I reckon they do, they get, like, good looking girls because of it, because everyone knows they are a crazy dude."
The report found violence in the city typically underwent four phases.
First, victims were identified, then a justification for conflict was created. The violence would then occur, before a "dispersal" stage, where those involved leave the scene. Mr Hinchey believes those who fight in Civic have little understanding of the damage they can cause. "We see the worst ones, the sad thing is that these are permanent brain injuries," he said. "Even the victims themselves find it difficult to understand how badly they have been harmed, and it affects every part of their lives.
''Every step we can take to reduce that, the better."