Police given new power to stop town centre crime

PUBLISHED: 06:39 20 August 2014

Inspector Sharon Bennett.

Inspector Sharon Bennett.

Archant

POLICE officers have new powers to move potentially 'intimidating' troublemakers out of Weston town centre before antisocial behaviour occurs.

New measures have been granted to Avon and Somerset Constabulary which allow officers to ask people to leave, if they feel there is a chance of criminal behaviour occurring.

The new dispersal zone comes after a number of recent incidents, including assaults on two police officers in Alexandra Parade.

The dispersal power was used first used during the second week of August and resulted in a crime-free weekend in the area, following support from North Somerset Council, Weston Town Council and youth offending teams.

Inspector Sharon Bennett said 30 people were asked to leave Weston town centre on the first weekend and all did peacefully.

And while the initiative is in its early stages, she is pleased with how it has gone so far.

Insp Bennett said: “Early intervention allows us to get in there and prevent problems before they start.

“We realise groups that gather there may not cause problems when police are there, but may later go on to. It takes up a lot of police resources and we can now concentrate on other things.

“We have consulted with more than 150 businesses and residents and collated their views. They felt unsafe and intimidated by the large groups of young people congregating in the Alexandra Parade area.

“Reassuring people that Weston is an attractive and popular resort to visit is at the heart of this tough action.

“With the great weather we have enjoyed this year it has been super to see the resort flourishing and busy with so many visitors, many making their first visit to the town.

“But it is disappointing to experience antisocial behaviour by a small minority.”

Signs explaining the dispersal zone have been put up across the town centre and a new CCTV camera is to be installed in Alexandra Parade.

One of the zone’s conditions means children aged under 16 are only allowed in the area between 9pm-6am, when accompanied by an adult.

Insp Bennett said it should mean police spend less time patrolling the area waiting for antisocial behaviour to kick-off.

Attention will now be devoted to finding long-term solutions to stop regular offenders including antisocial behaviour, drink banning and restraining orders.

She added: “Our intention is not to move the problem on, but to nip it in the bud and to remove the core group of troublemakers.

“It is also about protecting people, particularly those under-16s, who are staying out late in the area and without a responsible adult.”

The dispersal zone will last for six months but police have promised to review it every fortnight to check its effectiveness.

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