Combating the crime scourge

By TOBY WALKER

twalker@dailyexaminer.com.au

EASY ACCESS to a readily available supply of drugs and alcohol has been blamed for fuelling the culture of intimidation and anti-social behaviour governing the Clarence Valley's streets after dark.

Yesterday, Grafton Police reported they were happy with the wind down from the traditionally manic Jacaranda Thursday celebrations, but the night was far from incident free.

Ambulance officers were called to Grafton Base Hospital at 3am on Friday to take a man in his 20s for CT scans after he had been brutally bashed and left on the street.

Police had no report of the apparent assault yesterday afternoon.

In a separate incident, an intoxicated 15-year-old boy was charged with malicious damage after allegedly smashing a window of the Valley Country store on Prince Street.

Throughout the night, groups of youths spread out through the streets of Grafton were given move on orders by police.

One emergency services worker, who did not wish to be named, said underage drinking was often to blame and felt occasions like Jacranda Thursday were used as an excuse by some to break the law.

"(On Thursday night) there was groups of six, and up the road there was another group of about 10 and they were just hanging around to cause trouble," they said.

"There's a huge undercurrent of drug use.

"How you would find authoritative information on it, I don't know, but I was talking to someone the other night who said you could buy LSD for $15 and ecstasy for $40 and its readily available.

"It's just out of hand.

"Jacaranda used to be something for the family and the kids, now it's an excuse to have drunken brawls."

Jacaranda Thursday may be a special case, but a string of complaints from residents who fear for their safety has prompted Clarence Valley Council to call meetings on November 17 to address the growing issue.

Mayor Ian Tiley agreed something needed to be done after hearing residents say they were afraid to go out at night.

The first meeting will be held at the Treelands Drive Community Centre from 2pm with the second at the Grafton Community Centre from 5pm.

New Coffs/Clarence Local Area Commander Peter Barrie will be at the meetings and he is quick to warn against blowing the problem out of proportion.

"Going back through the records here, and these are only statistically driven of course, but there's no indication of a rise in this type of activity," he said.

"There's nothing coming back to me that would suggest that it's out of hand.

"I'm not saying there's not issues, their certainly are, but I think what we need is a balanced approach and, to my way of thinking, you guys (The Daily Examiner) are instrumental in that process.

"When I say balanced, I mean for the community to move forward, including the police, there needs to be meetings like those arranged for the 17th."



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