A new police team to target distribution of drugs and guns and the cross-border movement of outlaw motorcycle gangs was announced this morning at Byron Bay Police Station.
The Regional Enforcement Squad (RES) will be the fourth of its kind to be set up in the state, with the next nearest being in Coffs Harbour.
Northern Region Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said the new group would not be conducting drug-dog searches at festivals or roadside drug tests; instead their remit will be to tackle the distribution networks for ice and MDMA in particular.
He added that ‘a third of all drug activity in the state takes place north of the Central Coast.
The staffing for the new squad will come from Sydney, not from the existing police numbers in the area.
Announcing the move, MLC Ben Franklin (Nationals) said the squad was ‘a wonderful outcome for our area and our community – a sergeant and four constables who will be entirely focused on a proactive approach to looking at drug supply, organised syndicate crime, property crime and firearms offences’.
‘It’s going to be a proactive squad, which will allow a focus not just in the Tweed-Byron area but across the Northern Rivers. And this squad will be able to go to the hot spots where it’s actually required.’
Tweed/Byron Police District Commander Brendon Cullen said ‘now we will have a dedicated group of police concentrating on mid-level crime’.
‘This team of highly trained police will focus directly on those people who are bringing drugs into our communities, bringing firearms into our communities and are involved in organised crime’.
‘We really look forward to them hitting the ground,’ he added, which he said would take place towards the end of June.
Northern Region Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said, ‘this team will also be working very strongly not only with our own Raptor strike force from Sydney but also with Maxima, from Queensland police.
‘So there’s a lot of specialist resources that will be teamed up to attack not only the drug problem occurring within the Northern Rivers but, as important, to really attack the use of illegal firearms involved in criminal activity in this area,’ he said.
Commissioner Mitchell said the RES was ‘not about personal use – those persons that are carrying a small amount of cannabis or an MDMA pill for their own social use… what we’re more focussed on is that mid to upper level’.
‘Those responsible for the manufacture, those responsible for the supply throughout a community – that’s where we need to target,’ he said.