Police Get New Powers of Dispersal

The police came along to a meeting of the District Council to discuss the new powers they have to set up Dispersal Areas to deal with antisocial behaviour. Ron and Chris went to listen , and we learned a lot.

Basically, the police can set up these areas, which have to be publicly advertised – either in the local newspapers or by notices on the streets (which is the cheaper option).Within these areas a police constable has powers to direct groups of people to disperse, for people who do NOT live in the locality to leave the locality , and to prohibit them from coming back for up to 24 hours. The constable can use these powers if he or she believes that any members of the public have been intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed by the presence or behaviour of a group of two or more persons, or if anti-social behaviour is a significant and persistent problem.

These areas last for a period of 6 months , after which time they have to be re-created if the police want to continue with them. They do not apply to people involved in Trade Union disputes or public processions.

In addition, in these areas between 9 pm and 6 am , a constable can take a child under the age of 16 to their home if they are not under the control of a reponsible person of 18 or over.

The police have decided to set up the areas listed below. This is based on the numbers of incident reports, letters and emails they’ve had about youth nuisance between Jan 2002 and April 2004:

Around Rayleigh Town Centre
Little Wheatleys area and Grange Community Centre, Rayleigh
Victoria Road (Fairview Car park), Rayleigh
Ferry Road and Pooles Lane, Hullbridge
Main Road, Spa Road, Station Approach and Plumberow Avenue, Hockley
Clements Hall area, Hawkwell
Rochford Town Centre

The following areas were considered but not included:

Downhall Park Way and the adjoining park , Rayleigh
parts of Great Wakering

As councillors for the Downhall Park Way area we asked how quickly an area could be set up, if required. The answer was “pretty quickly” – in about a month, and one could be created if the amount of youth nuisance incidents and/or emails and letters to the police justified it.

It will be interesting to see how these areas work across the district, and, wherever you live – from Little Wheatleys to Rochford – we’d be interested in your comments. For residents in Downhall Park Way, we’d particularly value your views on this. Is the trouble bad enough to justify creating one of these areas? Would the police actually have enough manpower to make these powers work? Would the people involved simply move a few hundred yards outside the area? If you were trying to sell your house, would being in one of these areas increase the value of your house or reduce it?

The police also made the point that these powers don’t solve any of the underlying problems, they just act as a sticking plaster.