POLICE will be keeping a sharp eye on rowdy end-of-school celebrations on the Mornington Peninsula this year.
They will be increasing patrols in such popular party locations as Rye, Sorrento, Dromana, Rosebud and Mount Martha, and will “not tolerate any behaviour that negatively impacts the community”.
This includes underage drinking and anti-social and drunken behaviour on the beaches and around licensed venues and accommodation houses.
Senior Sergeant Natalie Dollard, of Rosebud police, said anyone breaching the private gathering rules could cop a $1652 fine. Under eased restrictions up to 15 people are allowed to visit a home, but the host, and anyone attending a gathering which breaches this limit, could also be fined.
Warnings have also gone out to schoolies on the Surf Coast and at Phillip Island.
Senior Sergeant Dollard said police would maintain a “highly visible presence” across the peninsula – and especially the Rye foreshore – during Schoolies activities which were set to run from last Saturday (28 November) until 10 December.
“Although the shire has put out a message urging young people not to come down we have to be realistic and expect that they will,” she said.
She was referring to a plea by Mornington Peninsula Shire CEO John Baker who said with then-social distancing rules and limits on gatherings likely to continue into next year, schoolies gatherings “won’t be possible”.
“My message to school-leavers and their families is that our beaches will still be here when this pandemic is over, so we are asking you to postpone your schoolies celebrations for now,” he said.
“It’s just not worth the risk of travelling down here. Look at options in your local area, stay safe and celebrate at home.”
Senior Sergeant Dollard reinforced the CEO’s message: “We will be out in force and will not tolerate poor behaviour – especially the use of flares.
“Flares are extremely dangerous and can cause serious injury. They can burn upwards of 1000 degrees Celsius and pose a serious risk when discharged in crowded or confined spaces.
“We will be targeting this behaviour again this year. Those involved in throwing flares can face serious criminal charges.”
Restrictions imposed by the Chief Health Officer will make Schoolies different to previous years. Senior Sergeant Dollard said while young people no longer needed to wear face masks when physical distancing outdoors, they must carry a mask with them at all times unless an exemption applies.
Masks are still required indoors when away from the home, when on public transport and when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Parents are also encouraged to have “open and frank” conversations with their children before they depart, ensuring they are “aware of acceptable social behaviour, the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption and taking drugs, and educated about the restrictions in place throughout Victoria”.
“We will not tolerate any behaviour that negatively impacts the community. Police will proactively patrol popular locations, like the beaches and foreshore areas, day and night, to ensure that everyone is safe and adhering to the CHO’s directions.”
It’s not only partying that’s set for greater scrutiny: Many young drivers will be travelling long distances on their own for the first time – and at speeds they aren’t familiar with – prompting police to implore them to “drive to the conditions, be courteous of others and aware of other road users so that everyone can get to their destinations safely”.
Police say they will run operations targeting speeding, drink-and-drug driving, not wearing seatbelts, and driver distraction, which includes mobile phone use, and fatigue.