Gold Coast battling trouble in paradise

The Gold Coast has grown into South-East Queensland’s major tourism hotspot, with its sunny subtropical climate, surfing beaches, high-rise skyline and rainforest hinterland. However, beneath its embodiment of sun, surf, and sand culture lies a rampant drug scene.

Beneath the sun and sand’s facade is a sinister neon nightlife–a mess of drugs, drinks and violence. (Image: Marcus Lavalle-Smith, used with permission)

The seedy underbelly of Australia’s very own City of Sin continues to escalate, resulting in a tarnished reputation for the city, and a community that doesn’t feel safe.

Originally a getaway town full of fibro shacks, the Gold Coast has formidably grown into South-East Queensland’s major tourism hotspot, with its sunny subtropical climate, surfing beaches, high-rise skyline and rainforest hinterland. However, beneath its embodiment of sun, surf, and sand culture, much like the Miami’s and Los Angeles’ of the world on which the city has been modeled, lies a rampant drug scene.

The nightclub and strip club precinct that surrounds Surfers’ Cavill Avenue, known affectionately as “the Glitter Strip” by its frequenters, is the central hub for the Coast’s drug activity.

The glamorous name does its best to mask the seedy dealings that take place on a nightly basis in the area, but a stroll down Cavill during the wee hours of the night show the Strip’s dark side—a concoction of drugs, alcohol and violence.

Gold Coast Police have recently increased the number of overnight drug crackdowns on the Glitter Strip in an effort to stem criminal activity. Last month, Operation Sentinel 7, a two-night blitz, resulted in the arrest and detainment of 79 people, on a total of 91 charges.

The police have also upped the number of lengthy investigations. The eight-month operation Rambo and six-month operation Juliet Stilton have had success in recent months, culminating, collectively, in the arrest of 42 people and the seizure of over $2.5 million worth of MDMA and cannabis.

A map indicating where the recent raids have taken place in the Gold Coast area. (Image: Rowan Sparkes)

In the last four months alone there have been numerous raids in the Gold Coast suburbs of Oxenford, Paradise Point, Labrador, Coombabah, Nerang, Robina, Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, Elanora, Varsity Lakes, Southport, and the notorious Surfers Paradise.

These raids have uncovered a smorgasbord of illicit substances, including MDMA, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, ice, the date-rape drug Fantasy, steroids and heroin.

Police District Officer, Superintendent Paul Ziebarth, said drug enforcement for the year 2011/2012 was the highest in 15 years in this review of the district’s reported crimes.

“By recognizing the currency of drugs and stolen property, we have focused on drug traffickers, producers and suppliers, with a number of significant investigations and sophisticated methodologies,” he said in the report.

To aid with this level of enforcement, a Major and Organised Crime Squad has also been established. Superintendent Ziebarth says these squads will also focus on firearms offences and the activities of OMCGs (Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs).

The Gold Coast’s drug-stained underbelly has recently been the subject of a media blitz, with a tirade of stories aiming to expose the drug trade and its insidious corruption, relating to nightclub owners and suspected protection services run by OMCGs.

However, the mainstream media’s depiction of the Gold Coast’s drug scene and its related violence has caused a disturbance in the community, with many citizens feeling unsafe.

“These sort of things used to only happen in certain areas, but it’s a lot more widespread now,” said Tony, a Gold Coast local.

“There’s a few places around [the Gold Coast] that I wouldn’t want to go to, but I still go out at Surfers when I go clubbing.”

“It’s scary seeing the shootings and stabbings on the news though because you feel like there’ll be a retaliation coming from another gang,” he said. “I mean, how much control over this stuff can the police really have?”

Suggestions to stem drug-  and gang-related violence include insisting bikies wear their colours at all times, as a matter of public safety and awareness.

Another suggestion is to ban the wearing of patches with insignia and emblems, as was done recently in Wanganui, New Zealand.

Superintendent Ziebarth and the Gold Coast police are working hard to create a securer, safer community and to re-establish the city’s tarnished image, dispelling common myths about the Gold Coast’s crime rate with this post on their media site.

Anyone with information regarding drug-related crimes, or any other crimes, that could potentially help police is urged to contact Crime Stoppers anonymously on 1800 333 000 or at