Pubs, clubs and bars in Kings Cross could return to the days of making protection payments to police if a joint proposal by the Kings Cross Liquor Accord and the Potts Point Partnership goes ahead.
The organisations, which represent more than 500 businesses, want to introduce a levy on businesses in the area to pay ‘off-duty’ police to work extra shifts in uniform under a user-pays system.
If adopted, the plan would see venues pay police for security, echoing plot lines of Channel Nine series Underbelly: The Golden Mile, which was based on Kings Cross police and nightclub machinations of the 1980s and ’90s.
While the new scheme would see payments occur openly, as opposed to the secret protection payments of the past, concerns have been raised about the potential for the scheme to foster favouritism and corruption.
Andrew Woodhouse, President of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society, said police impartiality would be eroded.
“This practice breeds corruption as ‘off-duty’ police become beholden to their employers,” he said.
“Conflict of interests arise for police moonlighting in two jobs simultaneously.”
Mr Woodhouse said the proposal – which has the backing of the Police Association of NSW – was “a backdoor, money-making scheme” being pushed by the union to give more police more work.
But the plan has received some high-profile support, with City of Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas hailing it a commonsense approach to a festering problem.
“Something desperately needs to be done about the security problems in Kings Cross and if the local businesses want to contribute to the solution, then why not?” said Ms Vithoulkas.
“Safety is the overriding concern here, not anything else, and I am for anything that encourages a greater police presence.”
Last year, Ms Vithoulkas’ successful bid for Council included a platform of increasing police numbers in Kings Cross by paying ‘off-duty’ police to patrol the area, in much the same way as the Sydney Cricket Ground does during games.
It remains unclear how the Kings Cross Liquor Accord and Potts Point Partnership propose to avoid corruption, and ensure venues who don’t agree to pay police receive the same service as ones who do.
Neither organisation returned calls by press time.
Meanwhile, Fairfax newspapers reported that NSW Police Minister Michael Gallacher would consider the proposal as part of the Kings Cross Plan of Management and was “working through the exact details”.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore stopped short of supporting the plan, and encouraged licensed premises to focus on responsible service of alcohol to combat violence.
Ms Moore said the City of Sydney was investing $2.5 million in providing extra Precinct Ambassadors and Compliance Officers, expanding CCTV coverage, opening an information kiosk in Springfield Mall and other measures.
“The NSW Police Commissioner and local commanders are in the best position to decide if extra police officers would help,” she said.