Police impose dispersal order in Colchester town centre due to anti-social behaviour fuelled by drink and drugs
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Police are enforcing a dispersal order in Colchester following a series of complaints about anti-social behaviour in the town.
The order, which covers part of the town centre and The Priory, began at 4pm on Tuesday and will run until 4pm tomorrow.
It empowers officers to require a person causing – or likely to cause – anti-social behaviour, crime or disorder to leave the area for 48 hours, and targets potential troublemakers at an early stage.
The order follows several complaints of groups drinking alcohol, taking drugs and being abusive to members of the public, zone wardens, park rangers, and police officers.
Colchester district commander Shaun Kane said: “This is an isolated increase. Local groups are congregating together, shouting, swearing, drinking alcohol, taking drugs and being a general nuisance.
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“The whole purpose of [the order] is to remove or reduce the likelihood of members of the public in the locality being harrassed or distressed, or to reduce the occurrence of crime or disorder.”
If a person were to refuse a police request to leave the area, in the most extreme cases they could face up to three months in prison or a £2,500 fine.
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Chief inspector Kane added that it was important to note cases of anti-social behaviour were decreasing, despite it being easier than ever to report crime. In the 12 months leading up to May 2018, incidents of anti-social behaviour fell by 2.2% – a reduction of 120 offences.
He said: “We are working closely with CCTV and we have got partnerships all working in conjunction to make Colchester safe. This power is supportive of that.”
Mike Lilley, portfolio holder for planning, public safety and licensing at Colchester Borough Council (CBC), said: “The street drinkers that hang around Colchester often get arrested but take no notice. They get very aggressive towards the wardens. There were complaints about drug dealing that was taking place in The Priory – open dealing in the daytime. It is a sad, sorry situation of modern affairs.”
When asked if the people of Colchester should be concerned for their safety, Mr Lilley said: “It has been going on for some time. They don’t go around attacking people – they fight amongst themselves. They get in arguments over the most ridiculous of things.
“They are just so far gone from drinking, they think they are above everything. It’s sad really.”
Mr Lilley added that the solution could be found in greater intervention from the NHS and police.
“We are trying to sort things out with mental health – these people are self-medicating with alcohol,” he said. “We will ask the NHS and mental health people to take more action. There is no point people getting locked up all the time.
“The one thing we really must have is more police officers on the beat. That is the clue to everything. There are more officers coming next year – we are hoping they will go to the town centre. You will probably find there will be more of these [orders] over the next few months. The police are very proactive in this – they are very keen to clamp down on it.”
The boundaries of the zone are High Street, Culver Street East, Long Wyre Street, Arthur Street, Osbourne Street, St Botolph’s Street, the railway line, Fenning’s Chase, and including St Botolph’s Priory and the grounds of the First Sight arts centre.