Police make headway cleaning up Gladstone's mean streets
FLASHBACK to April 2012 and you may have found the streets of the Gladstone CBD were a lot meaner than they are now.
Operation Parasol started on April 24, 2012 in a bid to curb the rising incidences of alcohol-fuelled violence that were occurring within the city precinct.
Naturally, the majority of these offences were taking place on a Friday or Saturday night.
The recipe was simple. More patrons in licensed venues binge drinking equalled a spike in violent incidents and public nuisance offences.
But Gladstone Police Patrol Inspector Darren Somerville says police are turning the tide when it comes to late-night revellers wreaking havoc.
"At the start to the middle of last year some of the incidents that were happening in the CBD were serious," Insp Somerville said.
"People were being king hit, but now with all the programs in place the seriousness involved with these offences has diminished."
The program is managed by Gladstone Regional Council and is comprised of a number of partnerships with industry, as well as local organisations and the police.
"One of the big success stories has been the night chaplaincy, where people are there on Saturday nights handing out water, providing an ear for people to talk to and looking out for vulnerable people, making sure they get home," Insp Somerville said.
"It started late last year and it's been a very successful thing run by volunteers, and they've been supported by industry as well, which is great."
As of June this year, local police had experienced a 30% decrease in the number of assaults in the CBD, thanks in large part to the efforts orchestrated by the $3450-a-night Operation Parasol initiative.
Insp Somerville said in 2013, criminal proceedings had been started against 226 separate offenders for more than 238 offences, the majority being public nuisance.
And when it came to glassing offences, of the six reported since January 2012, only three had related to incidents occurring in a licensed premises.
While CBD violence may be getting reined in, police still face difficulties when it comes to policing private parties.
Insp Somerville said more than 50% of assault incidents in Gladstone took place in private.
Local lad Brendan Clarke knows all too well how quickly a private party can turn sour.
The 21-year-old BITS AFL player was in Gladstone District Court this week giving evidence about the night he had his achilles tendon sliced in half by a glass bottle.
Mr Clarke had been at an end-of-season/18th birthday celebration at Wurdong Heights in July 2010, when he had his leg lacerated by a glass bottle being thrown.
While another 21-year-old man stood trial to face a charge of grievous bodily harm over the incident, the circumstantial case of the Crown was hindered by the differing accounts of the night given by witnesses.
While the accused was acquitted of the charge, Brendan, 17 at the time of the incident, still counts the cost of the incident, which left him thousands of dollars out of pocket.
"I got physio every second day for about six months as I kept putting my back out of place from the injury, and I don't have private health cover so it got pretty costly," Mr Clarke said.
"The physio costs would be into the thousands."
And the burden didn't stop at physio.
A promising welder, Brendan missed opportunities to take up boiler making apprenticeships because he couldn't travel and was unable to move at all for over a month, before being confined to a moon boot for a further four months as his ruptured achilles repaired itself.
"I wasn't allowed to work at all. I was part-time at KFC and had to take six months off. I couldn't drive at all either and my parents had to help me do everything as we've got stairs at the house," he said.
The incident was enough to see Brendan enforce a no-glass rule at his own 21st, as he would not wish his injuries on anybody.
"I love what I'm doing now but it had a big impact on my life," he said.
Mr Clarke is now doing a plumbing apprenticeship and is nearly fully qualified.