VIDEO: The difference a dispersal order has made in Waterlees, Wisbech
- Credit: Archant
They may not know it yet, but troublemakers on a Wisbech estate who are mainly responsible for the 28 dispersal orders since August have a new law to make their lives more difficult.
Last week, new anti-social behaviour legislation came into force that means police have the power to confiscate their cycles, mobile phones and even hoodies if they think they’ve been used to disrupt community life.
Sgt Dave Bax said the new laws mean an officer can get approval from the duty inspector to confiscate possessions for up to 48 hours. If authorised, the owners will have to visit the police station to retrieve them.
On a cold, sultry autumn evening Sgt Bax explained to me how Wisbech police had used the dispersal orders – which run out in January - and how new anti-social behaviour legislation will tackle the few who cause misery for many.
“There are about 1,000 kids on Waterlees – from the very young to those aged 18 and of these only 15 to 20 are a problem,” he says.
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Of the one or two per cent that are troublemakers the youngest are about 12 or 13 “and they are generally on bikes and generally target weaker people too. You wouldn’t find them for instance tackling some 6ft 2in builder”.
What has happened since August is that those subject to dispersal are handed a formal letter, their names taken and they are handed a map pin-pointing the area in which the exclusion operates.
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Twenty five posters were put around the estate when the dispersal orders came in said Sgt Bax – “they were of course soon ripped down but that’s no excuse for them not knowing”- but he is pleased with the response.
Reports of anti-social behaviour have dropped, not dramatically but enough to make life a bit more pleasant for many who live there.
One councillor even tweeted, after she knew I had been on the estate with Sgt Bax and his PCSO Steve Staniforth, that the number of late night calls of complaint had dried up since the dispersal order had taken hold.
Sgt Bax said often when youngsters are taken home after being subject to a dispersal order “a lot of their parents are amazed; most parents want to work with us and to put strategies in place to deal with it”.
PCSO Staniforth spoke as we walked around Waterlees and into the adventure playground where anti-social behaviour has dropped off.
Youngsters had been spoken to, names and address taken, dispersal orders issued and that seemed to have had a positive outcome.
And the community is behind police, said Sgt Bax, who is regularly told “they sense a difference. Everyone I have spoken to sees it as a positive move for the area, they see the police and partner agencies doing something, and there has been no negative feedback.
“Some families were concerned about a ‘curfew’ but that isn’t what happens with dispersals – and besides young people have to be seen taking part in anti social behaviour before any action begins.”
PCSO Staniforth, who spends 80 per cent of his time in Waterlees, believes it is important those youngsters he encounters understand the parameters.
Throwing stones and riding off is typical of the issues he deals with, although there has also been an incident of racial abuse which he has been called in to resolve.
“If that very small group who are responsible in the main for all these incidents were to stop, there would be no bother,” he said.