– When the most senior police officer in central Sydney, an Assistant Commissioner no less, declares a section of the city a no-go zone after midnight, you know you’ve lost the battle against crime.
“Those who stay out after midnight are going to become one of two things: they are going to be a victim or an offender, the way things are going,” said Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch last week, responding to the public outcry over the fatal assault on 18-year-old Thomas Kelly in Kings Cross.
Why the defeatist attitude? Isn’t there another option apart from “victim” or “offender”? It’s called law-abiding citizens out and about in their own city without fear of violent crime.
Or are we supposed to cower at home behind twitching curtains while thugs and bullies rule the streets?
That’s no way to run a city.
The problem of street violence in Melbourne and Sydney is a threat we should not have to tolerate. The price we pay for extended drinking hours is increased violence and disorder, which makes King Street in Melbourne’s CBD a scary place after midnight.
It has been six years since the shocking attack on James Macready-Bryan, king-hit in the CBD, leaving him with catastrophic brain damage. Even after widespread community outrage, and the formation of the grassroots Step Back Think campaign to prevent violence, two other young men, Matt McEvoy, 24, and Justin Galligan, 16, have died since from brain injuries in similar incidents.
Despite a greater police presence, eight in 10 people still do not feel safe going out in the city at night, according to a Perceptions of Safety report prepared for Melbourne City Council.
But you only have to look at the renaissance of New York’s Times Square to see what is possible with proactive policing and determined political leadership.
When my family lived in Manhattan in the 1980s, whole sections of the city were no-go zones. Times Square, at the centre of the island, was the seedy province of pimps, prostitutes and crack dealers.
Fast forward to today and the city is unrecognisable. Between 1990 and 2011, the homicide rate fell by 80%, the robbery rate by 83% and the burglary rate by 86%.
Times Square is now a bustling entertainment precinct, where you feel completely safe walking with children at 1am.
The agent of this turnaround was tough former prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, who became mayor of New York in 1993 on a platform of cleaning up the city. His handpicked Police Chief, Bill Bratton, instituted a statistics-driven, zero-tolerance approach to crime that was inspired by the work of sociologist James Q. Wilson, who died this year aged 80.
Wilson’s “Broken Windows” theory meant focusing on small crimes, such as littering, and keeping neighbourhoods free of signs of disorder, such as broken windows. The idea is that if it looked like someone cared, it is more likely order will prevail.
It turned out that zero tolerance for anti-social behaviour, and targeting petty crime, prevented serious crime from occurring, as did jailing repeat offenders.
The result, wrote Giuliani in a tribute to Wilson this year, was “a resurgent city and thousands of New Yorkers who are alive today because of his radical solution to a tidal wave of crime”.
In his book, “Turnaround”, Bratton wrote that before he arrived, “The NYPD had been content to focus on reacting to crime while accepting no responsibility for reducing, let alone preventing it”. Crime, the theory went, was caused by societal problems that were impervious to police intervention.
Plenty of anti-law enforcement academics have tried to deny the New York success story. But the facts are the facts. Policing made a difference.
What a contrast to Sydney, where police provide the cop-out excuse that poor Thomas Kelly was in the “wrong place at the wrong time”.
How? It was 10:05pm on a Saturday. He was talking on his mobile phone and walking hand-in-hand with his girlfriend down Victoria Street, a tree-lined residential street, in the most densely populated place in Australia. Victoria Street has a Holiday Inn, cafes, an upscale restaurant, backpacker joints and the back entrance to Kings Cross railway station. It’s not exactly the Bronx, circa 1987.
“You could have had 1000 police at Kings Cross on Saturday night. It would not have prevented this incident from occurring,” said Assistant Commissioner Murdoch.
Really? But police believe the man who smashed Thomas Kelly in the face last Saturday night had also king-hit another young man at the same location just five minutes earlier.
If police had been around to see that first assault they could have arrested the perpetrator and Thomas would be safely home with his family.
In the past week, we have heard a lot of talk around the margins, about CCTV cameras, more regulation of pubs and clubs, more public transport, pre-paid taxis.
But surveillance cameras won’t prevent an aggressor fuelled by crystal meth and alcohol killing another innocent person.
A former detective sergeant, Tim Priest, who blew the whistle on an earlier era of police inaction, knows what needs to be done: “There has to be a line drawn.”
He says NSW Police should follow the Bratton model, and establish “special crime areas” in Kings Cross and other crime hotspots in the CBD.
Plainclothes detectives would arrest troublemakers and anyone on the street who looks intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
The place would be cleaned up in weeks. But without political leadership, we can hardly blame police for avoiding trouble.
By the time Giuliani came along, New Yorkers were fed up with crime and ready for the remedy.
For Sydneysiders, Thomas Kelly’s death was a turning point, but they will have to wait for their Giuliani – Miranda Devine


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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