Beach riot crackdown
Teenage spies are being used by Auckland Council to crack down on Facebook pages organising the notorious "Cheltenham Beach riots" during Guy Fawkes.
A fireworks ban has also been put in place in the area in an attempt to stamp out "increasing levels of disorder", Acting Inspector Mark Fergus says.
Hundreds of "hostile and intoxicated" youths were responsible for tens of thousands of dollars of damage to private and public property last year.
Police made nine arrests after battling a crowd of around 300 youths who confronted police and firefighters, throwing bottles and aiming fireworks at them.
Cheltenham resident Sarah Blomfield says she has sleepless nights worrying about the situation.
"It has become more like a sport, like a running of the bulls but against the police."
The Devonport-Takapuna Local Board has endorsed the fireworks ban but members are concerned it will not deter youths from congregating and will just displace them to nearby beaches.
Board member and former detective Kevin Schwass voted against the ban, saying it won't solve the problem. "The ‘bonfire' is already under way, they will just reorganise and go somewhere else."
But council bylaw inspector Malcolm Denmead says authorities are taking a proactive approach to shut down any pre-organised gatherings.
"We have spies including teens who are monitoring Facebook for us and if they move around we can have officers stationed all the way up to Long Bay," he says.
"Youth will not even be getting on to the sand."
The ban will include Cheltenham Beach and the reserves adjoining the beach and Balmain Reserve.
It runs from 7am November 2 until midnight November 6.
The cost to the council of imposing the ban is estimated at up to $30,000 which includes signage and extra manpower.
Local board chairman Chris Darby says he is normally a sceptic when it comes to bans but he is confident authorities have a concrete plan in place, including a considerable number of police.
"The situation is out of control and we can not afford anyone to get hurt or more damage to houses."
Little Shoal Bay, Mairangi Bay Beach and Long Bay Reserve have also needed police attendance over the last three years.
Mr Fergus says it's disappointing that Guy Fawkes night is used by a small minority as an excuse to behave in a frightening manner.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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