Image-denting headlines like ‘Boozy brawls a blot on Byron’ and ‘Byron Bay tourists threatened by alcohol assaults’ are causing concern for the town’s business leaders who fear a visitor backlash.
The damning and unflattering figures are contained in just-released social profiles on the impact of licensed venues and alcohol consumption on local communities from the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, and they do tend to give some credence to those sensational headlines.
They show there were 295 alcohol-related assaults at Byron which is a rate of 1026 per 100,000 population, more than double the NSW average, with 63 occurring on licensed premises, also more than double the State average.
Of the total number of assaults, 201 were recorded at weekends equating to 699 per 100,000 population, again more than double the State average.
There were even more damaging headlines this week after a 27-year-old Ocean Shores man was charged with attempted murder following a violent assault outside the Great Northern Hotel late on Saturday night.
Police allege the 31-year-old Pottsville victim was punched and kicked before his head was stomped on.
The victim was taken to Byron Bay Hospital before being transferred to Tweed Heads Hospital and later to the Gold Coast Hospital where he is being treated for critical head injuries.
The alleged assailant, Nicholas Stafford Sharp, of Ocean Shores, was remanded in custody when he appeared in Lismore Local Court on Monday charged with attempting to murder Dallas Arnold by stomping on his head, using violence to cause fear and intentionally causing grievous bodily harm.
Magistrate Jeff Linden adjourned the matter to March 17.
Ed Ahern, president of Byron Bay’s peak business group, Byron United, said the latest government figures and the resultant publicity could have a negative impact on tourism.
Mr Ahern said it only highlighted the need for greater co-operation between the business community and Byron Council to improve safety and security in the town.
One step that could be taken, he said, would be to have full closed-circuit television (CCTV) coverage of the CBD, something Byron United had been pushing for some time, but not supported by the council.
Said Mr Ahern: “Police and chambers of commerce in Lismore and Murwillumbah which have put in CCTV tell me the results have been extraordinary in reducing crime.
“They are communities that have the courage to join forces and do something about crime.
“Every time we go to the council, they say no.
“There has to be a co-operative approach. We want co-operation. We have been begging and screaming for years.”
Mr Ahern said he knew there was a cost involved in monitoring CCTV, but the Byron Liquor Accord had said it would pay for monitoring on Friday and Saturday nights.
The government figures show the area’s drink-driving record is even worse, with the number of offences more than four times above the State average.
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