The Safer Croydon Partnership has agreed extra powers for the police to tackle antisocial behaviour by imposing two dispersal orders one in Croydon town centre, the other in New Addington.
The controversial measures, which came into force on Saturday 26 April, allow police to tell groups in the areas to disperse, to tell people who don’t live in the affected areas to leave and, tell people who don’t live in the affected areas not to return to the affected areas for up to 24 hours.
The powers which stem from sections 30-36 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, allow police to charge anyone who refuses their requests with the criminal offence of ‘Breach of a Dispersal Order’, punishable by up to 3 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £2,500.
Acting Chief Inspector Peter McGarry of Croydon police, highlighted the aims of the extra powers:
‘These two new orders will help local officers identify a small minority of people that are causing problems in specific areas, and take quick and swift actions to prevent them from disrupting the lives of visitors and those who live and work in the borough.’
The measures have been used by a number of boroughs across the capital but as we reported back in 2012, research by the civil liberties group ‘The Manifesto Club’ shows that Croydon has used the measures more than any other borough in London.
Worries have been raised about the intrusion into civil liberties by the new powers, particularly as the announcement came on the same day that the Home Secretary, Teresa May, told the Commons that she would be reviewing a separate policy, police stop and search procedure.
A government inquiry found that only 1 in 10 police searches had led to an arrest and they had disproportionately targeted black people who were found to be six times more likely to be stopped than white individuals, leading to wider concerns about police policy.
Tony Brooks, Croydon Council’s director with responsibility for community safety has reassured residents noting that
‘We will impose them anywhere that persistent antisocial behaviour is making people feel intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed. Those acting lawfully will not be affected.’
Yet it is clear public opinion in the borough remains divided on the need or impact of the new dispersal zones.
We spoke to Croydon residents:
Both dispersal orders run from 00.01 on Saturday 26 April to 23.59 on Saturday 25 October 2014.