Problem youth ban pays off in Square
5:30am Saturday 16th August 2014 in By Elizabeth Mackley
MORE shoppers are visiting businesses in Sussex Square since a dispersal order came into effect last month.
Since April, more than 30 complaints have been made to the police concerning a group of up to 30 youths aged between 12 and 20 who had been gathering in the Walcot centre.
But on July 25 an order that had been signed off by Swindon Council came into force, giving police powers to disperse groups gathering in the square causing anti-social behaviour.
PC Dan Ashfield, beat manager in Walcot, said: “We went and talked to every shop and business in the Square and they all said they had seen a definite improvement in the area since the dispersal order had been put in place.
“Some have even said that they had seen an increase in the number of people coming to the shops in the Square since then.
“We also spoke to some of the residents who live above the Square who we spoke to when we did the consultation.
“Most of them were positive about the impact and said that it had vastly improved in the area and were quite pleased, which is a positive outcome.
“There have been a few dispersals but there hasn’t been any gatherings to the extent that there were in the past, and we’re not looking to enforce this in a particularly draconian way.”
The dispersal order applies to all groups of two or more people who congregate and are suspected of causing anti-social behaviour.
It does not mean that the teenagers who caused the majority of the problems in the area will not be able to use the space to meet but it will mean they will be moved on if they are thought to be causing a nuisance.
Debbie Estarbrook, manager at the Walcot Charity Shop and Library in the Square, was pleased with the impact the order had had. She said: “It’s been really really quiet, it’s so peaceful.
“People coming in have also been commenting about it, there’s no litter all over the place, and it’s just been really quiet.
“More people have been around too. I think the groups of young people could be quite intimidating, particularly for some of the elderly people, and put them off coming to the Square. It really has made a massive difference.
“Whether it will continue to be like this I can’t say. I’d like to think that it might stay like this and they won’t come back in those big groups again but I just don’t know.”
The order will be in place for the next six months.
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