Byron Bay high on cocaine list

VISITORS may be responsible for making Byron Bay the cocaine capital of regional NSW, according to new statistics released yesterday.

The party town had the highest number of recorded incidents of cocaine possession outside of Sydney in 2009, and was the only non-metropolitan area to make the top-10 list.

It showed the third-highest number of incidents relative to population, while scoring seventh place overall with 12 recorded incidents.

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Tweed-Byron Local Area Command Acting Superintendent Owen King defended Byron’s reputation, saying the high number of cocaine detections was mostly the result of targeted operations at major events.

“We would attribute the majority of that to the big festivals where we had specific drug detection dog operations,” he said. “From an operational policing point of view we have not seen any increase in incidents of cocaine usage in the Byron CBD.”

The report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research into trends in the possession and use of narcotics and cocaine indicates that cocaine use in NSW is at a 15-year high.

The bureau’s deputy director, Jackie Fitzgerald, said Byron’s numbers warranted further investigation to confirm if major events had skewed them. Cocaine use is usually very geographically centralised – we have 50 per cent happening in central Sydney and 12pc in the Eastern Suburbs, so any reasonable numbers showing up outside of those areas sounds a bit of a warning bell,” she said.

“Byron did stick out as higher than we would have expected when we crunched the numbers, particularly being higher than Newcastle or Wollongong.”