Dispersal zones hit innocent kids
PUBLISHED: 12:33 30 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:24 24 August 2010
by Will Davies Police measures designed to prevent antisocial behaviour and intimidating gangs of yobs have been accused of sweeping up innocent kids in the process. After a zone was slapped on Wembley Central and Alperton wards last w
by Will Davies
Police measures designed to prevent antisocial behaviour and intimidating gangs of yobs have been accused of 'sweeping up innocent kids' in the process.
After a zone was slapped on Wembley Central and Alperton wards last week - the fifth in Brent - politicians and civil rights campaigners have branded the zones as crude and ineffective.
Cllr Alec Castle, who last month saw a zone imposed in his ward of Dollis Hill, said: "As long as you have a blanket response to groups of youths, you're not going to be able to sift out the baddies from the hangers on and the ones that are just following peer group pressure. There is a real danger it will sweep up decent kids.
"Sometimes they are a necessary evil. But a far more effective way at dealing with antisocial behaviour as been pioneered by Brent Housing Partnership (BHP), which has its own team of wardens who go down and talk to the kids, finding alternative activities to do such as street football. They have certainly had a major effect down there. ASBOs and dispersal zones are a method of last resort, not a knee-jerk reaction.
Cllr Castle added: "Dispersal zones simply move the kids on elsewhere."
Cllr Daniel Bessong, Wembley Central ward, welcomed the new zone but admitted trouble-makers had moved into the ward from South Kilburn after a zone was set up on October 13.
He said: "They migrate around the borough.
"But dispersal zones do work. You cannot simply be idol when residents and businesses are complaining about a problem. You need to curb that problem. I have not seen people's rights infringed upon but it may impact on some people's civil liberties, such as freedom to assembly."
The zones encompass parks, bus stops, cinemas, railway stations and other public places.
As well as dispersing groups of more than two people within the designated area, the zones give police the power between 9pm and 6am to forcibly remove anyone they believe is under-16 and unaccompanied by a responsible adult and return them home.
Cllr Hayley Matthews, lead member for community safety, said: " The idea is to put in place controls that allow the police to intervene where instances of anti social behaviour within a particular area. This approach has been very successful in the past."
James Welch, legal director for Liberty, said: "People should feel safe in their neighbourhoods but giving the police the power to tell someone to leave an area or be arrested and prosecuted goes too far. The police already have extensive powers to arrest those who engage in crimes such as drug taking, joy riding and burglary - is the instant justice of a dispersal order truly necessary here?"
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