Addiscombe dispersal zone aimed at ending antisocial behaviour
THUGS who have been wrecking the lives of innocent residents were given a stern warning last week – stop it or suffer the consequences. A dispersal zone has just been put in place in Addiscombe and is the first in the area’s history. As Addiscombe’s first dispersal zone comes into effect, Sian Hewitt spoke to the officers on the beat who have pledged to stamp out trouble...
FOR Sergeant Scott Smith and his team, it is better to be proactive than reactive.
The Addiscombe Safer Neighbourhood Team has been working tirelessly over the last couple of months to stop a group of teenagers who have made it their mission to act antisocially around the neighbourhood.
Sergeant Smith said: "It first properly came to our attention just after Christmas that there was this group, roughly of up to 10 boys, who would cause trouble. At first we thought they were sheltering from the cold, causing a nuisance, and it would pass, but that never happened so we had to take action."
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Along with PCSOs Andrew Williams and Angela Kilden, Sergeant Smith embarked on a plan of action aimed at the root of the problem.
Mr Williams said: "We were getting reports of them continually shouting, swearing, spitting and intimidating residents, which obviously is not on.
"They would meet on an open stairwell by a block of flats in Academy Gardens and we had one case where a woman was with her baby and was trying to get back up to her flat. They blocked her way, intimidated her and made her turn around. She had to call us to even get to her front door."
Around Easter the team decided to apply for a dispersal zone to cover the area where most of the trouble happened – and last month the application was approved and the zone came into force.
Ms Kilden, who has been based in Addiscombe for five years, said: "It is not right that people didn't feel safe. We visited their families and put them on ABAs – Acceptable Behaviour Agreements.
"Some of the parents were horrified but some couldn't care less – there was a mix.
"These agreements are not legally binding, but if they keep up the antisocial behaviour up we will know about it, and we will consider Asbos.
"We gave them a stern talking-to and so far, touch wood, it seems to be working."
The dispersal zone came into force on May 16 and will run until November 15, when the police can reassess how it is working and apply to have it extended if necessary.
Sergeant Smith said: "We tried to build up a rapport – this is the last resort. We tried engagement but it didn't work and now we are using enforcement."
Dispersal zones give the police more powers to make groups of people – of any age – move along. If they keep causing problems or come back into the area, they can be arrested for breaching the order.
It means officers can take those aged under 16 straight home to their parents, as well as tell people to immediately disperse and block those who do not live in the area from returning for a period of up to 24 hours. Those who ignore them can be jailed for up to three months.
The strict scheme means officers can arrest those who do not listen, charge them, and take them to court where they could receive a prison sentence of up to three months.
This dispersal zone covers the roads inside the areas of Lower Addiscombe Road, Grant Road, Storrington Road, Windermere Road, Capri Road, Dalmally Road, Blackhorse Lane, Elmers Road, Stroud Path, Tenterden Road, Wydehurst Road, Sissinghurst Road, Blackhorse Lane, Teevan Road and Colworth Road.