Concern as assault cases more than triple in party precinct
A steep spike in assaults has been recorded around Airlie Beach over the past six months, with a changing demographic of travellers and alcohol believed to be fuelling the rise.
The trend has prompted police to launch a new campaign targeting locations where assaults are generally occurring to promote the area as an assault-free zone.
A total of 88 assault offences occurred in the Whitsunday police division between August 2020 and January 2021.
This police division covers the Airlie Beach area, from Woodwark to Conway National Park and the islands.
The highest number of assaults during that period was recorded in August 2020, when 19 assaults occurred.
The statistics include assaults of varying severity, from grievous bodily harm to common assault.
The number of cases over the past six months is more than triple the number reported in the same period of time the previous year.
Between January 2020 and August 2019, only 27 assaults occurred.
Whitsunday Police officer-in-charge Nathan Blain said the assaults had largely been occurring in the Airlie Beach Safe Night Precinct and around accommodation areas.
A changing demographic of travellers was believed to be contributing to the trend.
"We are getting a lot of people coming into the area that are not locals," Senior Sergeant Blain said.
"Alcohol is a significant factor contributing to it.
"Drinking too much, more than normal, and not agreeing with people."
A new campaign is set to promote Airlie Beach as an assault-free zone with strategic messaging targeting those who may wind up involved in assaults.
Brochures, cups, brown alcohol bags and electronic signs branded with the assault-free zone message have been created to support the cause.
Police have engaged with various venues including pubs, clubs, accommodation and Whitsunday Coast Airport to get them on board with promoting the message.
Mackay District Crime Prevention Unit Senior Constable Steve Smith said sending the message out through the airport would target travellers coming into the region who may be contributing to the spike.
"We can see in some instances it is not local people, it is people who usually travel offshore," Sen-Constable Smith said.
"If you are flying in you are going to see that message and then you attend accommodation venues and see the message.
"There are also locals being dealt with as offenders and victims."
Sen-Constable Smith said reported assaults had generally been low in Airlie Beach so the current trend was not the norm.
But assaults could have dire consequences.
"When you punch a person, especially to the face, the outcome is this great big question mark, which is an enormous gamble on the part of the person doing the assaulting," Sen-Constable Smith said.
"They might fall over and get back up but depending on where the strike is, you might cause permanent injury to the nose or a skull fracture.
"You might cause a life-threatening situation.
"That has not happened (in Airlie Beach) but it is a mathematical situation where if the numbers keep on increasing, that kind of situation, you know something like that is going to happen."
Sen-Sgt Blain said there would be a higher presence of police in the Airlie Beach main street to help tackle the issue and show such behaviour was not acceptable.
"Violence towards anyone is not tolerated, if you are finding you have trouble with anger you need to step away and cool down," he said.
"If you need assistance as well, you won't be judged and we can get people support.
"If you are a victim of assault too, don't be afraid to speak up and seek support."