Cheers as police orders disperse drinker groups

Resident Leatrice Benson:

Resident Leatrice Benson: "Area looks much cleaner"

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

EXTRA police powers to break up gangs of late-night drinkers are working after just two weeks, say residents.

Police have used a dispersal order in St Clement’s to break up groups four times since the order came into force on Monday, August 11.

But they have not had to use the power it grants to arrest someone for returning to the area within 48 hours, suggesting the threat is potent enough.

Anchor Court resident Leatrice Beeson, 90, said the area looked “much cleaner”.

She said: “I haven’t seen any layabouts recently. The place looks fantastic. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was working.”

Police introduced the order after receiving 275 complaints about drunken behaviour and drug abuse in St Clement’s this year.

Another Anchor Court resident, Pamela Rogers, complained before that gangs of late-night drinkers by the river behind The Queen’s College’s Florey building were making life miserable and keeping her awake at night.

Now, she said, the gangs were gone.

Miss Rogers, 67, said: “We haven’t seen them in the last week or so, it seems to have got a lot quieter.”

It is the first time Oxford has had two dispersal order zones at one time since they were created by the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act.

The other, at Speedwell Street, was renewed for a further six months from the same date after it proved effective.

As well as granting police the power to break up groups of more than two, it also allows officers to escort home any unaccompanied under-16 found in the area.

Thames Valley Police anti-social behaviour officer Mike Ellis said officers had welcomed the extra powers.

He said: “Four or five officers told me they have used the powers; it is really welcome.”

There had been no reports of rises in anti-social behaviour in neighbouring areas.

According to the force, police had also used the powers to break up gangs in the Speedwell Street zone, but had made no arrests there either.

The last time a dispersal order had been used in the city was in Rose Hill eight years ago.

WHAT IT MEANS

SECTIONS 30-36 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (ASBA) gave police in England and Wales powers to disperse groups of two or more people from areas where there is persistent anti-social behaviour, as well as take home under-16s on the streets in a dispersal zone between 9pm and 6am who are not accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.

A new Anti-Social, Crime and Policing Bill, which would overwrite current dispersal orders, was introduced to the House of Commons last year. s That bill is expected to receive Royal Assent by the end of the year.

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