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Sex Predator Alert For Byron Beach

Signs warning of sexual predators could be erected at Byron Bay's beaches in the wake of a string of attacks in the popular tourist town.
Visitors arriving on buses would also be handed safety information packages under the plan being considered by Byron Shire Council. The shocking rape of an English woman at a popular beach late last month has led authorities to admit there has been an alarming increase in sexual assaults in the northern NSW tourist mecca.
Mayor Jan Barham and the region's top policeman, Inspector Owen King, agree Byron Bay is not as safe as it was two years ago.
They are warning tourists not to sleep on beaches.
The problem is so bad that the council is considering warning signs for beaches and providing safety information packages for tourists."I don't think it's something you can ignore," said Cr Barham. "For any perceived negative that might come from things such as warning signs, you can't take that risk. The safety of a person is paramount."
Last month's early-morning rape at Byron's popular Clarks Beach prompted the council and police to formulate the safety plan.
The rape of the 19-year-old took place on the beach at 6am in front of one of the town's most popular restaurants, the Beach Cafe. She had slept on the beach with her partner but when he went to use a nearby toilet, the attacker struck.
Byron Bay police officer-in-charge Owen King said there had been almost 100 cases of sexual assault in the region over the past year.
"We do have concerns," he said. "It's still a safe town. It's a great town to come to if you want to enjoy yourself. It's just not as safe as it was two years ago."
Most of the victims are female backpackers in their early 20s, but a small proportion are younger than 15 - some male - who are attacked when drunk.
"We are particularly concerned about the young people - I'm talking about 15 and younger," said Bronwen Myers, executive director of the Richmond Sexual Assault Service.
Some entertainment venues are responding to the threat by showing warnings on plasma screens in the early hours of the morning advising patrons not to walk the streets alone.

Sunday Mail (10-4-2005)
Paul Weston

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