If the News Limited tabloids are to be believed the Byron Shire has been in the grip of an ice-fueled crime epidemic, with assaults and robberies virtually the norm.
But the latest crime statistics suggest this is far from the truth.
Figures released this week by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research indicate that violent crime has fallen over the past five years.
While statistics never tell the full story, the numbers do suggest that rumours of our descent into chaos and vice have been somewhat exaggerated.
In the five years to December 31, 2017, violent crime fell 4.7 per cent in the Byron Shire.
Further, when compared to the average crime rate in NSW over the past 12 months, the Byron Shire has not experienced a significant increase in either violent crime, theft or fraud.
This is significant because it shows that our region is no better or worse than the rest of the state, contradicting tabloid media reports that we have become a haven for ice-addicts intent on wreaking havoc.
Detective Inspector Brendan Cullen, the Crime Manager of the Tweed-Byron Local Area Command, said the figures were encouraging.
‘Certain isolated incidents have gained a lot of media exposure but they’re not indicative of the overall picture,’ Detective Inspector Cullen said.
‘Over the past five years we’ve worked really hard to address alcohol-related crime particularly in the Byron CBD.’
‘But we’re not resting on our laurels. We’re continuing to focus on violent crime and engaging with local community groups such as the chamber of commerce to make sure we get it right down there.’
Detective Inspector Cullen also said that police were attempting to ‘reconnect’ with the Byron community following two highly publicised incidents in which officers used force while arresting young people.
‘We’re reconnecting with e community and opening lines of communication to assure them that they live in a safe area. We want people to be safe – that’s our goal.’
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and others in the News Limited stable ran a series of articles earlier this year declaring that Byron was in the grip of an ‘ice epidemic’ and had been ‘ripped apart by a drugs crisis’.
This included a ‘frightening wave of violence in the idyllic hippie holiday destination’.