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Sydney lockout laws review highlights vital role of transparent data analysis

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The New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) recently claimed Sydney’s alcohol licensing regulations, commonly known as lockout laws, reduced non-domestic assaults by 13% in the CBD. Its calculation relied on a decision to allocate 1,837 of these offences to both Kings Cross and the CBD – that is, double-counting the data. Our analysis found this decision was critical to the conclusion that assaults decreased in the CBD. For every other choice about the areas to which offences data were allocated and type of analysis we found no decrease.

Our findings highlight an important question: how do the choices of data collection, pre-processing and analysis affect policy decisions?

The allocation of crimes to areas is just one of several choices made when using data to assess policy impacts. Other choices include how to measure violent crime, what time period to consider and the geographical extent of the areas to include. The question is: if other choices were made, would the results affect a decision to repeal or continue the laws?

Our findings point to the need to follow a couple of principles when using data to inform policymaking. First, the institution that collects data and the institution that analyses the data should be independent of each other. Second, we need as much transparency about the data and its analysis as possible.

BOCSAR chose to use monthly non-domestic assaults from 2009........

© The Conversation