Rowdy gangs moved on from retail park

CRIME in a trouble-hit retail park has fallen by 60% thanks to the introduction of a town's first ever order giving police the power to disperse rowdy gangs.

James Mortlock

CRIME in a trouble-hit retail park has fallen by 60% thanks to the introduction of a town's first ever order giving police the power to disperse rowdy gangs.

The six-month Dispersal Order - which came to an end this week - was last night hailed a big success, with a significant reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour in and around the Shawlands Retail Park in Sudbury.

The initiative, introduced by police together with Babergh District Council, saw a 60% drop in crime levels in and around the area and a reduction of around 75% in the number of calls to police about the area.

Babergh District Commander, Ch Insp Martin Ransome, said he was extremely pleased: “This was an approach that hadn't been used in this area before - it has certainly had a positive impact on the area concerned. Six months ago youth nuisance and disorder on the retail park was of particular concern.

“Officers have regularly patrolled the area using the powers granted under the order where necessary, and the problems have dissipated.”

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Dispersal Orders give senior police officers the power to designate an area, with local authority agreement, where there is a persistent anti-social behaviour and a problem with groups causing intimidation.

As part of the order police have the power to disperse rowdy groups causing trouble. Individuals could then be excluded from the specified area for up to 24 hours and officers also have powers to take youths aged under 16 home.

Ch Insp Ransome added: “This legislation has enabled us to target quality of life issues for the communities around the retail park, to ensure it remains the sort of environment where people feel safe. Complaints about public order have decreased in this area, and whilst there has been a little displacement to other areas, in general anti-social behaviour of this nature has decreased considerably.

“Whilst the order has been lifted, we will continue our patrols in the area, and if the problem shows signs of returning we will consider the powers available to us.”

Jenny Antill, Babergh District Council member for the area, welcomed the cut in anti-social behaviour: “Although residents may be cautious that the order has not been extended, it is really good news to have the commitment from the police to continue patrols in the area, as most residents believe the increased police presence has been an important factor in the reduction. I will be keeping a careful watch as to how the situation develops.”

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