UPDATE The City of Stirling mayor has vowed council rangers will fine anyone caught drinking in public places at the Scarborough beachfront after the first warm weekend of the season was again marred by drunken violence.
Mayor David Boothman said more than 10,000 people flocked to the popular beach yesterday as the temperature soared to 35.2C.
But the situation deteriorated after a series of fights from about 5.30pm, with the first involving two women near the amphitheatre.
At its worst point up to 200 people gathered to watch the fights and vandals damaged a toilet block that had recently been renovated, including an attempt to set fire to a disabled toilet facility.
Acting Supt. Danny Mulligan said police had monitored the beach all day, with five officers patrolling on foot and two police vehicles also in the area.
He said the officers were kept busy all day monitoring potentially troublesome groups and calming a “general uneasiness”.
He said crowds gathered when two teenage girls began fighting about 2.30pm but police quickly diffused the trouble.
Officers took the pair home to their parents and issued them with juvenile cautions for disorderly conduct.
Police received another call for help about 5.30pm with reports of up to 200 people fighting.
Acting Supt. Mulligan said a big crowd had gathered to watch but there were just a few spot fights – not a big brawl.
Because of the big crowd police called for back-up and over the next hour several more police arrived with horses and dogs.
He said two males, including a 15-year-old boy, were charged with assaulting a public officer, disorderly conduct and obstructing police.
He said police planned to have a mobile police facility at Scarborough on busier weekends but would have officers monitoring the beach every weekend.
Cr Boothman described the behaviour as “totally reprehensible”, saying a small minority of the crowd destroyed the pleasant atmosphere for other beachgoers.
The violent scenes have almost become an annual event at Scarborough on the first warm day of the season and Cr Boothman said authorities had to think smarter in order to prevent another repeat of the problem.
“The way to deal with this is to actually deal with it before it gets out of hand,” Cr Boothman said.
“As soon as people start coming down the beach, bringing alcohol and all that, jump on them there, give them infringements, seize the alcohol and hopefully you will actually nip it in the bud then you don’t get the problems later on with inebriated people causing great problems.
“I will be looking to ensure that during summer our rangers will be on the beach and they will be handing out infringements for littering and if people are going to take alcohol and drink it they will get infringements for that as well.”
But Cr Boothman said there were limits to what council staff could do in the face of a 10,000-strong crowd. Rangers can enforce council by-laws that include fines for people caught drinking in public places but Cr Boothman said staff could not be placed at personal risk by confronting hostile crowds.
“We can’t put our rangers in a situation where they might get their heads bashed in,” he said.
“Once you have 10,000 people down here that are sat around in large groups it’s very intimidating for one person to walk in and tell people they shouldn’t be drinking,”
Cr Boothman did not believe police “dropped the ball” on Monday, saying they had other matters to address including a concert at East Perth and big crowds at Cottesloe Beach.
He said about 20 council staff were working at the beachfront and he did not believe council could provide extra resources. The council also monitors about 30 security cameras on the Scarborough beachfront.
Reports suggest African youths were involved in Monday’s violence but Cr Boothman said the crowd was diverse mix of people.
“Just the same with any other group in society, perhaps their community really needs to look at the behaviour of their youth and try to get some reasonableness in,” he said.
Acting Supt. Mulligan did not think police were caught unaware. “You can’t prepare for everything,” he said.
“We had five officers on the beach all day, that’s a pretty big investment in keeping the peace down there and they did their job very well,” he said.
He said police expected the community to be well behaved and most people were. But there was a minority who caused trouble.
“Police will not tolerate any unruly behaviour and we will do our very best to crack down on that in the future,” he said.
He said it was illegal to bring alcohol to the beach and police had operations planned to target people drinking alcohol at the beach.
“If we target operations and we deliver that message to the public that we don’t tolerate alcohol and disorderly conduct down there then hopefully that message will get through,” he said.