POLICE say crime has dropped by more than 10 per cent in the town centre in the six weeks since anti-social behaviour orders were handed out to four men alleged to be among a gang of street drinkers who caused trouble.
Martin Morgan, 27, Kevin Wolton, 30, Andrew Dunn, 45, and David Coutts, 40, who all deny the allegations, were given the orders last month as they were said to have got drunk and acted anti-socially over a prolonged period, mainly in the area of the bus station, upsetting passers-by and traders.
The interim Asbos ban them from being in possession of an open can or bottle of alcohol, or being in a group of more than three adults, in any street or public place in the borough – and police say the restrictions are paying off.
Yesterday, the interim orders were extended until January 28 to allow a trial to take place on January 25 as the four deny the accusations and are contesting Swindon Council’s application to impose full-length orders.
Speaking before the hearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court, Sgt Barry Reed, of Wiltshire Police, said that before the orders had been put in place, the group of street drinkers was responsible for 13.6 per cent of reported incidents in the town centre, equating to between 50 to 70 incidents per month. But in the last six months, this had fallen to about 2.4 per cent, or around eight incidents per month.
“I’m really pleased because we’ve put a lot of effort into it and now we’re starting to see results. Honestly, it has been phenomenal,” he said. “What’s happened is all the other street drinkers don’t want to associate themselves with the people with Asbos because they don’t want the Asbos themselves.
“And the numbers with Asbos don’t want to be with them because it’s a breach of their Asbo. So that small condition has a very huge knock-on effect in the group dynamics. And the knock-on effect is you get a reduction in anti-social behaviour, you get a reduction in people being intimidated and less complaints.”
In the court hearing, the council’s solicitor, Francis Maples, told the magistrates: “The effect of the orders which your colleagues made on September 10 has been largely positive, not only in relation to these four defendants but in relation to others, that there’s been clearly a measurable and discernible reduction in street drinking in the town centre area.”
Kevin Marland, representing Coutts, Dunn and Wolton, said they contested a full Asbo. Chris Oswald, representing Morgan, said he had received no instructions but a lawyer would represent him at the trial.
Wolton, who spoke out himself in court, said: “I have changed my life. I don’t hang around the town centre. I work now. That’s what I wanted to explain to you.”
Dunn asked what was meant by being in a group of more than three adults, questioning for example, whether he could go to the cinema.
The four were given four weeks to submit evidence for the trial.