NEW powers to prevent antisocial behaviour in Newport are proving effective, police say, but one councillor has questioned whether such temporary measures will have a lasting effect if they are lifted.
In July a “dispersal order” was imposed allowing police to break up large groups of people in the city centre, which will run for six months.
Newport police officer, Inspector Mark Pope, said: “Comparing July 2014 to July 2013 there has been an overall reduction in incidents of antisocial behaviour within the dispersal zone of 12 per cent. Impressively, there has been a 55 per cent reduction in public order offences for the same time period.
“The dispersal powers have been used 43 times since the introduction of the order on July 1, 2014. This has resulted in four arrests for people breaching the warning.
“As well as tangible reductions in crime/incident numbers we have had a really positive response from local residents and business owners. The feedback we are getting is that shoppers feel safer in the day time and are seeing fewer street drinkers and beggars around the city centre.
“In terms of a long term reduction in antisocial behaviour – during the period the dispersal order will be in place we are compiling evidence for ASBO applications to be served on offenders who repeatedly breach the order.
“This will have a positive impact when the order finishes as persistent offenders will be not be able to cause antisocial behaviour due to the restrictions from their ASBOs.
“We have referred five under 16s to the early intervention youth offending team who are working to support youth offenders and their families to prevent longer term problems.”
Jon Powell, who runs a news kiosk in the city, said problems had been ongoing for some time prior to the order.
“The problem right in front of our shop was the gangs of kids,” he said.
“Often the things they’re doing aren’t really illegal – screaming and shouting and general boisterousness.
“Any trouble we have had with them throwing rubbish, and the graffiti a couple of weeks ago has been dealt with really quickly.
“On balance I think the order is a good thing. I was concerned they might target just people sat there having a burger but they don’t seem to be. They seem to know the ones which need to be dealt with.
“Once it was explained to them, people adjusted their behaviour because they wanted to hang around there.
“Most of the kids are not bad people, they just get a bit carried away in a group.
“Just a few days ago, a couple of CSOs came, asked a big gang of kids to move who were messing around on bikes and came over to me and said if they come back while you’re open, give us a shout and we’ll be straight back down.
“I think me and my next door neighbours both sides are pretty happy.
“I hope it will help in the long run. I hope it will be extended. It has been suggested it has been put in place for NATO, to move on protesters. I do hope it’s continued for the benefit of the traders.”
Dispersal orders have been used effectively elsewhere in Gwent, a councillor said.
Nigel Dix, Labour councillor for Blackwood, said they had solved the ‘car cruising’ problem the town faced with boy racers revving up and down the high street.
The town now has a permanent order with vehicles, except taxis and ambulances, barred from the centre on Thursday nights, he said.
“Prior to this dispersal order we used to have six month orders put on the town,” he said. “We would have to gather evidence every six months and present the evidence to the police.
“Then things would start again and we would have to go through the process again. There would be a period of the car cruising slowly creeping back up. We decided to put a permanent order on. It has solved the car cruising problem.
“In Blackwood’s town centre we had a problem for many years. Police tried many things. People would come from all over the country, as far as Birmingham and Manchester. We designed the order so it’s flexible. We could enforce it any night.”
A gate at each end of the town monitored by CCTV checks which cars are driving in the town centre.
“Local people who live around the town centre I think are very supportive,” he said. “It’s made their lives a lot more bearable. It did go on until two or three am. Driving up and down, beeping, playing music – you’re talking about 300 cars at a time, parading up and down the town. I think Blackwood had facilities they were looking for.
“We have got fast food, nice big car parks either end of the town, dual carriageways you can race up and down. There were other concerns about drinking and illegal drug taking as well, especially in the Asda car park.”
The order had put a stop to all this, he said, adding: “We don’t have any problems now I’m aware of.”
But he thinks if the order was lifted, problems would return.
“It would be a matter of weeks until they realised it wasn’t being enforced anymore,” he said. “A lot of these youngsters are savvy. They connect with each other by text and Facebook, they’re pretty quick to know what’s going on.
“I believe if it was lifted, the car cruisers would be back within a very short time. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the society we live in.”