The Null Device

Melbourne's wave of violence

Apparently, all is not well in Melbourne; the World's More-Or-Less Most Livable City is reportedly in the middle of an epidemic of brutal, random violence:
Neurosurgeon Professor Andrew Kaye says: "We have a really serious problem. The viciousness of these attacks is really frightening." He sees new assault victims admitted with significant brain injuries at least twice a week and patients with less serious damage daily. But he says even the so-called less serious assaults can leave the victims with long-term and often permanent disabilities
According to Professor Kaye, the assaults are not just alcohol-related. "We see people who have been attacked with clubs, knives and screwdrivers or repeatedly kicked until they are unconscious. This is a huge issue."
The increase in violence seems to be manifesting itself in a number of disparate phenomena; violent street robberies, bashings for thrills, and gangs of teenagers targetting teenage parties to crash are some of them. Nobody's clear as to why there has been an increase in violence now, but some speculate that it could have to do with changing tastes in social pharmacology:
One suggests the trend has altered from young people popping party pills and drinking water to mixing amphetamine-based drugs, which heighten aggression, with large amounts of alcohol, which limit inhibitions.
See also: this Mess+Noise discussion thread, which is full of anecdotes of encounters with violence. By the sheer volume of reports, Melbourne sounds like a more dangerous place than London these days.

There are 9 comments on "Melbourne's wave of violence":

Posted by: Greg Sat Jul 18 04:17:43 2009

Explaining "why" is going to tbe fun part of the "violent Melbourne" discourse. Drugs doesn't ring true for me: weren't party drugs supposed to be more peaceful than ye olde alcohol? Someone drew a long bow in the Age this morning and said it was due to urban sprawl: according to them, high-density cities make people live in harmony. He'd have to have visited a very selective collection of cities to believe that. This could be a fun thread - I wonder what people think has caused the increased violence in Melbourne?

Posted by: ianw Sun Jul 19 16:30:53 2009

"Why Suddenly?" is the big question. I have no idea; nor have I noticed (aside from spotting headlines) that it is happening. It's interesting/scary to ponder some kind of cocktail of causes, from Ice to the Financial Crisis, to the doubling of rent/food prices in the last 5 years.

I mention this (doubling) because it seems to be a massive social upheaval in itself, and I don't suppose it is rating a mention in the Age or on Mess And Noise - so Andrew I'm not sure if you're aware, but the demographic of the Inner North would appear to be changing rapidly, coolsie types moving elsewhere/anywhere. (I imagine that if say Berlin suddenly got as expensive as London, the area within the Ringbahn might not remain the bubble of peace-out that it is now. On the other hand, why is it their culture supports public drinking without the violence we (in Aust/UK/US) assume this should engender? Beats me). Perhaps all of Greater Melbourne is in some kind of turmoil and this is the first symptom to reach the media's notice?

Posted by: ianw Sun Jul 19 16:53:19 2009

PS. I meant to mention (above) that Mess+Noise article would seem to suggest there is an emerging culture of violence-for-its-own-sake, which is why I wonder if it might be just Ice etc., or is there more to this? (Greg, it's not 'party drugs' but this Ice biz, a new thing). Incidentally I saw someone fall from a third story window in Oxford st recently - he seemed to be either escaping from violence or apprehension by security - I put it down to being in Sydney; a passer-by called it an "ice-scapade".

I couldn't find the Age article but I do think there's something to be said for the (sprawl/pop.density) difference between cities here (and the US) and Europe, eg. Melbourne is an absolutely massive area of suburban sprawl with minimal business & entertainment outside the inner city. I imagine commuting (for work) is everywhere, but how extreme is the entertainment commute here? People outinely travel 20 or 30km (and more) for a night out, with a large number wandering the streets waiting for the dawn trains.

Posted by: Greg Sun Jul 19 23:23:03 2009

I like that phrase "entertainment commute". I have discussed this problem many times with various people, including my son who is in the danger demographic as he is 20, drinks socially, and has a driver's licence. The problem doesn't seem to have changed since I was that age. Socializing requires alcohol and travel, and it happens late at night when public transport is useless. Because the alternatives are too difficult or expensive, many people of all ages choose the 'solution' of drink-driving. Only wealthy inner-city types who live a bike-ride from venues and parties have an easy out. I'm not sure whether I've strayed off-topic here: the 'entertainment commute' is presumably not responsible for the type of violence we are discussing. BTW the Age letter was refuted by another letter today.

Posted by: alex4point0 Mon Jul 20 03:04:43 2009

"Happy-Slapping" with a knife? Lasn-esque-hyperconsumerism-fuelled, psychosis pandemic, a-la 'The Signal'? The cops aren't there to stop people from hitting each other, but they are supposed to clean up the mess literally and metaphorically by chasing and arresting offenders. Victoria Police under Overland will be interesting considering how much Christine was blamed for, well, everything. I noticed the Sydney Rd shisha dens are under close scrutiny from local and state government. Maybe we could give all these nice tea-totalling fellas some truncheons and a badge, I'm sure they'd love an opportunity to weigh into drunk skips as part of their responsibilities on Vice Patrol. There is nowhere for the yoof-of-today to socialise and mingle that doesn't involve spending money in the mega malls or getting hammered in a beer barn. Bring back the arcade parlours. What about a 'street heraldry' of lapel flashes and fabric badges, signifying those who want to punch on and are happy to fight anywhere, any time ...

Posted by: alex4point0 Mon Jul 20 03:06:19 2009

(...cont) The thing about the cops is, there's a backlog of at least three years' assault cases clogging the courts at the moment, at least if my experience is anything to go by. *tinfoil hat* This is all about introducing mandatory RFID bloody IDs I reckon. Boiling frog and all that. Oh, save us from ourselves!

Posted by: ianw Mon Jul 20 05:47:31 2009

greg - the link may be tenuous (re: entertainment commute) but it's possible there is a significant number of people (loopy on booze + ice/?) killing time between 3 and whenev, rather than cab it back to Dandenong or somesuch. Not my idea, I read this suggestion last year. The city becomes a weird-ass playground for folks for whom the place (and it's groovy/well-off inhabitants) is an annoying nightmare, hours (or hours of wages) from home. A 'sudden trend of inhumanity-to-fellow-man' reeks a bit of 'children overboard' style fibbing, a problem for the sake ofselling a political solution. Unless I have my head in the sand and Ice really is turning people into killing machines. Or both, etc.

Posted by: alex4point0 Mon Jul 20 12:06:00 2009

Throwing my weight behind the PT gap. It was fine to chill out in the 24h Swanston McDonalds after a night out 15 years ago while you're waiting for a train, but now that there's a drug problem turning everyone into psychopaths? Fine, if the Bill won't police the streets, and if they're not too busy de-fanging the OPI, and if they're not on the take, maybe they can do something about the ice trade then?

Posted by: Greg Mon Jul 20 12:28:23 2009

If lack of transport in the wee hours is the problem, perhaps the solution, rather than more trains or cops, is to provide people with somewhere to sleep in the city? The San Francisco Bay area has a similar problem: it's a looong train ride from Stanford and many music fans choose to stay in cheap hotels after a night out in the city. Japan, of course, has the ultimate in cheap digs for drunks: the "capsule hotels", see . Could something like this work in Australian cities? One of those office-turned-residential medium-rises in town might make a killing out of this.

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