When I returned to my home in Victoria Street, Potts Point, yesterday the neighbourhood was unusually quiet. Maybe it was an omen for what was about to happen.
Within minutes I’d turned on my computer and received a message saying Daniel Christie has just died. My heart sank. How could another young man be cut down in our suburb, and in almost the same spot where Thomas Kelly was attacked in 2012?
Daniel, like Thomas, had yet to live the life of an adult with all of its joys and possibilities. I am in regular contact Thomas’ father, Ralph, who has battled to stop alcohol fuelled violence since the death of his son. The decision by the Christie family to turn off life support brought back all the trauma of his own son’s death.
Yesterday I felt sad and sorry, but today I feel anger. Anger at the tragic loss. Anger at the government inaction. And anger that my suburb has become a no-go zone.
I have lived in Kings Cross for 20 years. I moved here because I like the vibrancy and the amazing community. If I wanted the quiet life I would have moved to Roseville! But in the last five years, there’s been a dramatic change in our suburb.
In this time I have lost count at the number of brawls, acts of vandalism and general anti-social behaviour that I’ve seen on my street. In fact it’s so bad that the owners corporation in my building had to employ a security guard! Only last night this guy had to deal with a bunch of drunken men and women. One particular young man so intoxicated that he was urinating on the footpath in front of dozens of passers by. He became aggressive when asked to move on by the guard and we called the police. He staggered up the street before he could be apprehended.
The fact that this happened on the day of Daniel Christie’s death shows just how out of control the situation is.
I know it’s not an easy problem to fix, but as someone who lives at ground zero I think I have something to offer in terms of solutions.
First of all get police back on the beat throughout Potts Point and Kings Cross on the worst nights: Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sure there have been some additional patrols (even on horseback) in Victoria Street over the past week, but we all know this will cease once the issue is out of the media spotlight.
Tougher sentences for offenders also need to be introduced as advocated by the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation to send a message to thugs that their brand of behaviour will not be tolerated.
Most importantly though I believe we must trial Newcastle-style lockouts and early closings in Kings Cross and the city. Trialling the Newcastle solution can’t do any harm to the community, in fact it can only benefit the people. Perhaps the only ones who stand to lose are the liquor industry, but maintaining their profits can’t be allowed to see another life lost or damaged.
Barry O’Farrell has talked about changing community attitudes which is important, but these attitudes will take decades to change. Something must be done in the meantime.
For the sake of the Christie and Kelly families, for the sake of police, paramedics, doctors and nurses, and most of all for the kids who are going out to enjoy themselves, the Premier has to take meaningful action.
This post first appeared on www.geofffield.com.au on 12 January 2014.