Canberra’s epicentre of violence: where and when Canberra’s assaults happen
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Canberra’s epicentre of violence: where and when Canberra’s assaults happen

Civic is becoming more dangerous as the number of assaults in the centre of the city increases by a third.

However, analysis reveals you're more likely to be attacked in Canberra between 5pm and 6pm.

Most assaults happened in Canberra's densest pubs and clubs district last year.

Most assaults happened in Canberra's densest pubs and clubs district last year.

One in five assaults reported in Canberra happened in Civic last year (421), ACT Policing data shows.

There were almost five times more assaults reported in Civic last year than in the next most violent suburb, Kambah (86).

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Almost three-quarters of assaults in this precinct happened on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday (310).

Comparatively, about one in two (1102 of 2166) assaults city-wide occurred on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Assaults in Civic accounted for two in five of these.

Analysis of all reported assaults across Canberra last year shows the highest number of individual assaults occurred between 2am and 3am on a Sunday (47).

But while there was a clear spike in reported assaults between the hours of 2am and 3am (102 were recorded during this time from Monday through to Sunday), consistently across each week day more assaults occurred between 5pm and 6pm (129).

These figures come as the ACT government prepares to announce more changes to Canberra's liquor laws.

It follows Calvary Hospital's emergency department's decision to record every patient's drug and alcohol intake and the venues that intoxicated people have attended, in an Australia-first study.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the government expects start introducing overhauled alcohol legislation in mid-2016 and that these statistics "reinforce" what was already known.

"Any level of personal violence in our community is a concern. The ACT Policing figures regarding the number of assaults in Civic on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, particularly in the early hours of the morning, reinforce what we know about the role that alcohol plays in many assaults," he said.

He will also seek the Liquor Advisory Board's views on changes to existing liquor laws, based on consultation with the industry and the community on more than 40 proposals, including reducing hours of operation.

While a 2014 review of the 2010 Liquor Act found risk-based licensing had been a "positive step", Mr Corbell said a number of issues, including the "persistent" level of alcohol-related violence, remained a concern.

The ACT's Victims of Crime Commissioner, John Hinchey, said the figures confirmed what many knew anecdotally about the city's densest pub and club precinct.

He said a review of the territory's liquor act and licensing was warranted but cautioned against targeting hours of access alone, as he believed it wouldn't address the underlying cause of violence.

"Alcohol is not the sole cause of violence, beyond that, underlying that is some maladaptive cultural norms that allow this sort of behaviour to develop," he said.

"We need to place the blame for these assaults with the perpetrators as much as with any licensed premises or any regulatory regime. I would not want to see innocent people penalised because of the behaviour of a few."

But while he wants to retain the city's vibrancy, he said it should not be at the safety of residents.

"I'm concerned it'll be too late to talk about what to do about this problem if someone loses their life. It's already too late for many who've suffered brain injuries but I think the community's safety needs to be our priority in the way we approach our licensing regime," he said.

The other suburbs where the most assaults occurred last year include Kambah (86), Belconnen (82), Greenway (68), Phillip (53) and Braddon (51). Civic had 421 reported assaults, more than all of these suburbs combined.

Michael Thorn, chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, said regardless of where Canberra's assaults were occurring, the government's white paper on alcohol reform was long overdue.

He said he would like to see any reform also target pre-packaged liquor, given it accounted for 80 per cent of sales.

"There are 70,000 alcohol-related assaults a year across Australia and it's fair to say that less than half taken place in night-time entertainment precincts," he said.

"Nearly 80 per cent of all alcohol is purchased in a package from bottle shops, supermarkets or across the bar, it would be unsurprising that we would be concerned about trading hours when it comes to family violence, as well as street violence in entertainment precincts."

But Mr Hinchey said Canberra needed to examine "violence as a culture" as well as overhauling liquor legislation.

He said restorative justice and education could play a big role in reducing the harm caused by domestic and non-domestic assaults.

"I think in the long term we must work to find ways to socialising young males into adopting non-violent responses to provocation, to associate respect for others as a feature of what it is to be a man. Men perpetrate domestic violence, sexual assault and general assaults more frequently than females, that's not to be questioned," he said.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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