Beach patrols to combat race riots

Special police units have begun patrolling beaches in the Australian city of Sydney in a bid to prevent a recurrence of race riots which erupted last December.

    Dozens of people were arrested over last year's riots

    Some 80 officers will patrol potential trouble spots throughout the summer as part of a project named Operation Beachsafe, said Carl Scully, police minister for New South Wales.


    Australia's worst riots in living memory erupted in the  Sydney beach suburb of Cronulla on December 11 last year, when groups of whites attacked mainly Muslim Lebanese-Australians in order to "reclaim the beach".


    The unprecedented violence led to retaliatory attacks in which churches, shops and cars were trashed, prompting widespread debate about the extent of racism in this multi-ethnic nation.


    On Sunday, police on patrol at Cronulla were backed by dog units, a helicopter overhead and a patrol boat cruising offshore.


    Scully said that while there was no intelligence suggesting a repeat of the riots, the special force would patrol southern and eastern Sydney beaches such as Cronulla, Maroubra and Brighton-le-Sands.


    "The message to anyone intent on causing trouble or upheaval is quite simple - the police will be cracking down hard on you,"  Scully said.


    "Our beaches are there for everyone to enjoy, regardless of their creed or colour."


    'No ethnic tensions'


    Highway patrol officers will also scan vehicle licence plates on roads leading into Maroubra and Cronulla and stop any known trouble makers.


    "If you're intending to come down to... any of our beaches this summer and commit crimes, we're on a collision course with you"

    Andrew Scipione, acting New South Wales police commissioner

    Andrew Scipione, the acting New South Wales police commissioner, said hooligans had no place on Sydney's beaches.


    "If you're intending to come down to Cronulla or any of our beaches this summer and commit crimes, we're on a collision course with you," he said.


    Scipione dismissed any suggestions there were ethnic tensions brewing, despite an attack with racial overtones at a Sydney beach on Friday.


    Police were called in after a group of people, reportedly Asian, was attacked by 20 men at Maroubra as they unpacked their cars for a barbecue.


    The attackers smashed cars and tried to steal items from the vehicles before assaulting the men and women when they attempted to stop them.


    Two men and a woman were taken to hospital with minor injuries.


    "Obviously, there were... racial taunts. I hope it wasn't worse than that," Scully said at the time.


    "I hope it was only an offensive piece of opportunistic crime on the spur of the moment."



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