– The signs that Christmas is upon us include the Myer window display, bad carol music in every department store and the news police are set to blitz Victoria’s holiday hot-spots.
But this year will be different: members of the 230-strong Operations Response Unit will be instructed to hit the sand looking for the type that turns a day on the beach into a nightmare.
While stopping short of arresting middle-aged men in inappropriately small swimming trunks, police say they are determined to enforce family-friendly standards and will crack down on anti-social behaviour including public drinking, loud music and offensive language.
The ORU head, Inspector Nigel Howard, said police would patrol beaches on quad bikes, all-terrain vehicles and on foot, during the six-week blitz.
Police would issue infringement notices for public nuisance offences, including enforcing the new ban on smoking at surf-patrolled beaches.
Under the ban, which came into force on December 1st, anyone who lights up between or near the beach flags is liable for a fine of $141.
From next weekend members of the ORU will head to popular holiday destinations such as Cowes, Torquay, Ocean Grove and Lakes Entrance to help local police deal with the surge in holiday makers.
Inspector Howard said the ORU would work with the Water Police Unit to target rogue jet-skiers. “They have been speeding back to the beach and mixing in with the crowds to avoid detection. Now we will be there when they hit dry land.”
During the blitz until the end of January, police will target public drunkenness, licensing breaches and traffic offences.
The ORU will also be deployed on fire watch during code red areas during days of extreme heat.
Inspector Howard said his group would continue to support Melbourne police covering busy CBD night-spots swollen with pre-Christmas revellers.
He said that at the weekend police were called to an office party hosted by one of Australia’s biggest companies.
“Four people were taken to hospital due to the effects of alcohol and we had to deal with an assault after an altercation between fellow staff members,” he said.
Police throughout Australia and New Zealand joined forces at the weekend in Operation Unite – the fourth annual trans-Tasman blitz on public misbehaviour in and around popular entertainment precincts.
In Victoria, 29 assaults were detected, 1000 preliminary breath tests conducted (13 positive), 166 people arrested, 105 people processed as drunks, and 20 banning and 659 penalty notices issued – John Silvester