Friday, May 25, 2007

Quick Dispersal

Following on from the discussion below on gangs and groups, you might be pleased to discover that a dispersal order, aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour, will come into force in Broadstairs from Friday 1st June.

The order, made by Thanet District Council and Kent Police, is designed to give the police powers to disperse groups of people that they believe are causing trouble or intimidating others. The dispersal order will run for six months and will be in force 24 hours a day. It applies to groups of any age.

It will cover an area of the town, which includes the seafront from Harbour Street to Queens’ Gardens, Granville Road, Queens Road, Pierremont Avenue and the length of the High Street from Pierremont Avenue down towards the seafront. Pierremont Park and Victoria Gardens are both within the dispersal area.

Cllr. Chris Wells, Cabinet Member for Safer Neighbourhoods, said: “I am delighted to be making this early announcement of our continuing determination reduce anti-social behaviour in Thanet. We know this is a major concern for locals in Broadstairs, who suffered problems throughout last summer, and we are determined to ensure the town does not suffer the same problems again. This is not about disrupting the many festivals and events which take place during the summer months. People who are behaving themselves, have nothing to fear from this dispersal order. But if you come to Broadstairs this summer with mischief in mind, the powers are in place to deal with you straight away. Many in the town will be particularly grateful for the curfew order on younger teenagers who congregate outside shops and off licences on summer evenings.”

Although the dispersal order applies to all ages, a curfew has also been put in place between the hours of 9pm and 6am on anyone under the age of 16. During these hours, the police have the power to take anyone under this age home.

Sgt. Dave Knox of the Crime Reduction Unit for police in East Kent said: “Dispersal orders have proved effective in other parts of East Kent because they give police officers the power to disperse groups of people causing problems for the local community. We are fully aware of the criticism sometimes leveled that the problems are simply shifted to other areas and we have measures in place, including the use of fixed and mobile CCTV cameras, to assist us to act quickly and prevent this from happening. The curfew is an additional tool enabling officers to take young people home when they persist in anti-social behaviour and spoil it for anyone trying to enjoy an evening out in Broadstairs.”

Ed: Please note that this is "dispersal" and not a "disposal" order, given that some members of the Broadstairs community would much prefer the latter form of action applied than the former. It's a start and perhaps we can see it next in Birchington, Margate, Ramsgate and other areas that have experienced problems with congregating 'group' of teenagers, although I'm sure that a great many of the hard-core troublemakers may in fact be over 16 so dealing with them is an equal challenge.

15 comments:

Doctor Doom said...

Most interesting, and in some respects most welcome, But some clarification is in order, please.

The dispersal order seems on the face of it to be an excellent idea and a welcome addition to the armoury of local law enforcement. Buy why only Broadstairs? If Cliftonville is indeed the no-go-area den of iniquity that recent contributors suggest then surely this should be a priority for action, and not just for the summer months.

Of interest too is how this will be enforced. Will the local community police substitutes have powers to enforce these orders? Will there be a “hot-line” local number that residents can use to advise the local police without clogging up emergency services? How many extra police officers will be available to monitor the dispersal area, and will they simply be leaving other areas of Thanet with even less policing as a consequence?

And most importantly, what are the penalties for failing to disperse, or regrouping five minutes later?

What really concerns me here is why we need another layer of police powers to deal with these problems. If the individuals or groups (or even gangs!) concerned are breaking the law in some way then the existing law should be enforced accordingly, whether it’s breaching the peace, using foul language, obstructing the pavement or something more serious. If they are not breaking any laws then surely they have as much right as any other individual or group to go about their business.

The curfew order, by contrast, seems to be a far more serious matter, and again needs clarification. Nine o’clock of a summer’s evening, especially in school holidays, is a ridiculously early hour to demand fourteen and fifteen year olds be safely at home with their parents.

Cllr Wells is quoted as saying “a curfew has been put in place between the hours of 9pm and 6am on anyone under the age of 16. During these hours, the police have the power to take anyone under this age home.”

Sgt Dave Knox has a slightly more amenable take on the matter: “The curfew is an additional tool enabling officers to take young people home when they persist in anti-social behaviour and spoil it for anyone trying to enjoy an evening out in Broadstairs.”

So come on, guys, which is it? A blanket curfew for all under-sixteens? How about under-sixteens unaccompanied by an adult? Or by an even less responsible seventeen year old?

Will holidaying parents with fifteen years old need to keep their kids on a leash for fear the police will swoop and cart their off-spring back to the b&b if they wander off for five minutes?

To quote Cllr Green from the previous posting: "If we demonise all groups of youngsters that hang around in groups, what will the effect be? Youngsters have always done that, and there's always been a criminal sub set within that. It’s not always easy, but dangerously lazy not to bother, to differentiate between the two.”

Sgt Knox’s statement that the police will be able to act if under-sixteens persist in anti-social behaviour is entirely reasonable. But it should have nothing whatsoever to do with the age of the perpetrator. Anti-social behaviour is anti-social whether it is a five year old, a fifteen year old or a fifty year old.

A blanket curfew against under-sixteens that effectively criminalises, and certainly demonises, an entire age group, can do nothing but alienate young people across Thanet and across the country.

Cllr Green says: “People who are behaving themselves, have nothing to fear from this dispersal order.”

That’s fine, councillor. So please explain why under-sixteens who are behaving themselves should be subject to this draconian curfew?

chris wells said...

Dr Doom I have been slightly edited in the presentation. Sergeant Knox position is entirely correct, and elsewhere when discussing this today I have reiterated the twin track approach of wanting to engage young people not demonise them, and that young people who are not causing mischief have nothing to fear.

Why Broadstairs? Because of the anti social behaviour experienced last year. Why not Cliftonville, actually there was a dispersal order similarly in Cliftonville a little while ago. It would be ridicolous to impose this on evry area all at once. A similar order was imposed around Trove Court over recent months as well.

This is a genuine attempt to nip potential trouble in the bud, and not get to some of the unpleasant scenes around firework nights we had last year.

Anonymous said...

We allow the 'police' state to encroach on us and our children, little step by little step and all the time we hear the siren voices like Councillor Wells and Councillor Green lulling us with soothing arguments.

Could we please wake up to the fact that inadequate levels of policing the existing law are largely to blame for the problem and that heaping new 'orders', 'by-laws','notices' on to the pile does not solve the problem. What happened to arresting street yobs under 'behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace' let alone actually 'breaching the peace'. This long established Common Law does not need adding to, it just needs enforcing when the situations outlined by our Councillors apply, or is it that the Police do not like arrests of youngsters because of the paper-work it then generates?

"We have nothing to fear as long as we are behaving ourselves" has become the mantra of those, like our Councillors, who have mis-understood the nature of the problem completely. Let's be quite clear, a 'curfew' is a draconian measure, whatever the age group it is applied to. What constitutes a 'gathering' can be interpreted in any way a Police Officer sees fit. As a soldier in support of the RUC in Ulster, the 'Special Powers Act', which had to be en-acted annually by Parliament, gave me authority to 'move-on' two or more gathered on a street but was never used in 6 tours in that then 'Troubled' part of the UK. The blithe acceptance by Councillors of similar powers to be used in peaceful Broadstairs is worrying in the extreme. Does the removal of all our civil liberties have to be the price we pay because our Police are unable to keep the peace in the Isle? Rather than more repressive law we just need more Police and firmer up-holding of the law.

chris wells said...

Understand your fear exactly, Anon. However we have to deal with the siuations that arise and the parental failures that beget them on the streets today and over the next weeks and months. We will also be working to provide activities and support for young people, and older people, and be encouraging parents, friends, and others to play their parts as responsible adults as well.

This is not undertaken blithely or lightly, but with serious intent and only with good cause. I wish it were not necessary, and I will encourage the ending of such a state of affairs as soon as it is safe to do so. For now, we try this tactic, proven to work elsewhere and see if it helps.

Anonymous said...

The fact remains, if we had a respected and capable police presence, things would never have got this bad ! Re-instate the local bobby and lets reclaim our streets. As I write this, two young girls, still in school uniform are outside screaming abuse at cars that pass ! There is no point in tackling them, calling the police or imposing measures such as curfews on rubbish like this !

DrMoores said...

When I was at university in the States - New England - I discovered the presence of so called 'blue' laws.

These were local laws, very often local to the point of a small town which gave the police mayoral authority to apply laws the town saw fit. i.e. no drinking on the beach, no under 18s on the streets without adult supervision after 9pm and so on. The teenagers hated them but the streets were always quiet. Mind you that was a different age and the Vietnam war hadn't been over for very long!

Doctor Doom said...

Thanks for the clarification, Chris Wells. That is a little more reassuring.

If not fully supportive of the logic, I understand entirely the motivation behind these measures, and fully accept they are well-intentioned, but share very much the concerns of Anon 5:42, all the more so given his personal experiences as related.

Regarding the past dispersal action in Cliftonville that you refer to – what evidence is there that it worked? And if it did, why discontinue it?

Chris, you make an entirely valid point about poor parenting that lies at the root of these problems, but far from confronting this problem your actions seek to punish the kids for being badly brought up, while the parents will carry on regardless.

You say you will “be working to provide activities and support for young people, and older people, and be encouraging parents, friends, and others to play their parts as responsible adults as well.” More information to this end would be most welcome. If there is indeed a twin-track approach a you say then that is reassuring.

I can, reluctantly and with many reservations, accept the logic of the dispersal powers, but fail to see how a curfew will in any way improve community relations. How can demonising the vast majority of entirely innocent young people in one small area of Broadstairs for an entire summer by imposing this curfew in any way engender respect for authority?

There’s also an important issue of law here. Are these curfews legal? There have already been court rulings to the contrary -

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4699095.stm

and

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4700581.stm

to cite but one example.

I for one would welcome youth groups in Thanet getting together to mount a similar legal challenge to this latest curfew order in Broadstairs. Being physically detained and transported, home or elsewhere, by a police officer, for no other reason than being under sixteen and out of doors at five past nine is simply obscene, and makes a mockery of our justice system.

And before the usual suspects start the usual rants about liberals ignoring crime in favour of some vague idea of human rights I would refer you to my previous posting, above, and to the observations of Anon 5:42 on existing laws which are quite adequate to deal with these problems if used effectively.

Simon, you’re quite right – local laws have an important role to play, and control measures such as restricting alcohol, etc, are to be welcomed. Curfews, by contrast, are an obscenity we expect from totalitarian states, not so-called democracies. The post-Vietnam curfews may have kept the streets quiet in the US, but they were morally wrong there and then and are morally wrong here and now.

tony flaig bignews said...

This is all a bit over the top isn't it.

Doctor Doom said...

Over the top, Tony? Tell that to the under sixteens effectively imprisoned in their homes of an evening.

No-one would dream of imposing a curfew on an older age age group. It's an insult to young people everywhere, that is only allowed to happen because our society regards children as second-class citizens.

DrMoores said...

I see that Tony has retreated to his own site to pass comment. That said though I suspect, if put to the vote, most residents would be behind the idea, which isn't healthy for the state of our democracy but illustrates the real fears that people have over "teen" disorder and violence and I use teen in its broadest term.

Doctor Doom said...

Sadly you’re probably right there, Simon. If any voters bothered to turn out they probably would agree. Of course that might be because, by very definition, any voters will not be those facing the curfew...

I would like to see the councillors who support this measure visiting schools in the area to explain to the innocent kids affected why they are being penalised for something they haven't done.

I don’t doubt the very real fears in people’s minds, and having lived in societies abroad where crime is all but unknown I have every sympathy with their concerns.

But demonising any group for the sins of a tiny minority of anti-social or criminal individuals puts us on a dangerously slippery slope.

The real solutions have been mentioned many times already: Effective policing of existing laws, good parenting, and encouraging, in your own words, “a sense of social responsibility.”

Blaming under-sixteens for the failings of their parents, teachers and the elected representatives who fund policing will only encourage an entirely justified sense of alienation among those being wrongly targeted.

Ken Gregory said...

Oh Dear, I must need a holiday, for once I agree with you Dr Doom, I am reminded of the Ashford Tesco store that banned all kids from a local school, because some were shop lifters. (but did not ban adults,even though most shoplifters are adults)

tony flaig bignews said...

Doc Doom I was not endorseing the over reaction to a few youffs see bignews

Simon I did not retreat I had already posted when I passed comment on your site.

Doctor Doom said...

Sorry, Tony. The position of your brief posting gave that impression, so delighted to see otherwise on your own site.

Anonymous said...

Thanet Council/Broadstairs Town Council should also be setting a good example by not authourising a temporary Alcohol License this year for Victoria Gardens. This sends out the wrong message to our teenagers, 'We can have fun but the teenagers can't" Last years Barn dance was a noise nuisance and went on late and alcohol was being sold. Maybe the curfew should be extended to apply to these events!!