A POLICE crackdown on 'boy racers' began early last night in the run-up to the introduction of tough new powers in a Gwent town.

Police in Blackwood are enforcing a new dispersal order from Monday in a bid to beat 'boy racers' making life hell for residents.

But acting on information that gangs had planned a show of force in defiance of the new order, and were planning to descend on the town last night, police maintained a high presence in Blackwood throughout the evening.

About 10 officers on foot and in vehicles patrolled the High Street, bus station and ASDA, and several drivers were stopped and questioned. Others drivers congregating in the town's McDonald's and ASDA car parks were told to move on.

Sergeant Lysha Williamson said last night: "We had information that there could be a high number of vehicles present tonight, and we already had the extra resources in place prior to the notice which comes into force on Monday for three months.

"This is a powerful tool. Until now we have been moving them on from place to place, but once the dispersal comes into force they won't be able to return for a 24-hour period."

The new order is the latest in a package of measures aimed at ending months of misery for residents caused by drivers cruising around the streets and car parks.

Already, under existing legislation, 71 notices were issued to drivers who caused distress or annoyance since July. The law currently allows vehicles to be seized from anyone who gets two notices in 12 months and three have been confiscated since last July.

The new dispersal notice, which covers the Blackwood ward, will enable officers to disperse those causing or likely to cause intimidation, harassment, alarm or distress.

Last night's expected 'show of strength' did not materialise, but police say they are ready to enforce the new powers when necessary.

Philip Robinson, from Pwll-Yr-Allt, Pengam, said: "It's time the town was given back to decent people. I am grateful to police, it's been miserable for us."

But Mark Clayton, from Aberbargoed, said: "All we want to do is meet and show off our cars."