Businesses and locals have been raising their concerns over the increase in abusive and aggressive behaviour and break-ins in Mullumbimby.
Locals have reported that they have been woken by loud, abusive busking, fights and screaming while others have reported elderly people being screamed at by people with mental health issues on the streets.
‘A lot of my friends won’t let their kids walk around town on their own, and others won’t walk dogs on the streets of Mullum anymore, because of all the stray dogs,’ said one local business owner, who asked not to be named.
‘Two to three times a week, there is an altercation or fight outside my shop, and businesses have had windows smashed. I’ve been in the area for over 15 years, and over the last two years it has been getting progressively worse. I saw someone get stabbed at the pub about three months ago. That in itself was so shocking.
‘I see so much of it, especially the mental health issues. Drugs are definitely another issue. The drug deals are going on outside all the shops constantly all day. It just feels like Nimbin now.’
Detective Chief Inspector, Matt Kehoe, Officer in Charge of Byron Bay Police Station, told The Echo, ‘Yes, we are aware of the mental health and drug issues in, and around Mullumbimby at present, and I speak often with Jenelle [from the business chamber] and other shopkeepers in the CBD’.
‘We are also working very closely with the Community Mental Health [MH] Team, to get the increased support that some of these repeat MH persons need. I can’t comment on “increases in mental health patients in the community”, as it is more a health matter, but can say that we are dealing with mental health matters on almost a daily basis,’ he said.
‘We have increased tasks in and around the Mullumbimby CBD, and made a number of arrests in recent weeks for drugs and “proceeds of crime” offences, and seized cannabis and large amounts of cash. These tasks will continue, and likely increase. We have received reports from the community and would welcome any information on drug activity, which can be made to police or anonymously to Crime Stoppers.’
The distance police need to travel and the lack of police at the Mullumbimby Police Station have been highlighted as leaving the community vulnerable.
‘It can take 45 minutes for the police to arrive from Byron following a report,’ said the local business owner. We need extra police resources for Mullumbimby. We go to the police station in Mullum and there is no one there. There is a big distance for police to cover in Byron Shire, and you only have one police station here that has officers permanently in it. I think they need more police and mental health support services.’
Jenelle Stanford, President of the Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce, said it is important for the community to come on board and report issues to the police as they arise.
‘If you see something, ring the police. Don’t be scared, because you are not the only one calling. Get involved, it’s your community.’
Rumours that groups of young people, sometimes referred to as ‘eshays’, are responsible for the recent spate of break-ins, have been refuted by Inspector Kehoe.
He told The Echo, ‘I am aware of some break and enter incidents, but don’t believe they are attributed to the “eshay” group.’