Byron Bay Schoolies 2010
Byron Bay Schoolies 2010 Patrick Gorbunovs

Police defend Schoolies response

POLICE have defended their heavy presence in Byron Bay during the Schoolies period saying they are simply trying to ensure everyone has a good time.

With up to 10,000 school leavers expected to arrive in town during the next three weeks, mounted police, the riot squad and extra traffic patrols have been brought in to help manage this year's celebrations.

But the ramped-up tactics are being labelled as excessive by some locals who believe it is more likely to provoke problems than prevent them.

Doug Luke, who has lived in town for 15 years, said people were feeling intimidated.

He said a man had been taken into the toilets at a local pub over the weekend and asked to "drop his pants" by police, after identification by a sniffer dog. (Police have denied a strip search occurred, saying they only "pat down" suspects).

The man was not found to be carrying drugs, Mr Luke said.

"We spoke to quite a few people who really take things as they come and they're really disgusted by what's happened," he said.

Mr Luke said the high numbers of police put people on edge and could set off more problems.

"If I was a parent of a Schoolie and saw the numbers of police in town I would be worried about the safety of the child," he said.

Superintendent Stuart Wilkins, of Tweed Byron police said extra police had been brought in from Sydney to help take the pressure off local police.

The aim was to provide a safe environment for everyone.

"There could be anywhere upwards of 10,000 Schoolies here over the next few weeks, I don't think 45 cops is over the top," he said.

Supt Wilkins said the first weekend of Schoolies had been fairly quiet, with most problems caused by youth from Lismore and Ballina, not Schoolies.

There were 14 drug arrests over the weekend, 12 licensing breaches and one arrest for supply of alcohol to a minor.

"Responsible service and consumption of alcohol is the key message," Supt Wilkins said.

Schoolies hub co-ordinator Naquin Yazdi said she believed sensationalised reporting in the Sydney media about last year's Schoolies celebrations could partly explain the extra police presence.

And while she personally believes the town does not need so many police, she said she appreciated the big effort that was being made.

"The high presence helped keep the whole beach and park drug-and-alcohol-free over the weekend," she said.

Meanwhile, accommodation is desperately needed for Red Frogs; the volunteers who help keep Schoolies safe each year.

There are an extra 25 Red Frogs arriving in Byron Bay this week.

To help, call Craig on 0433 539 129.

 

Watch live streaming video from queenslandpolice at livestream.com


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