Teenagers on the streets after 9pm could be marched home by police in Wisbech

Councillors at the Waterlees area of Wisbech. Left: Michael Bucknor, Virginia Bucknor, Paul Clapp and Alan Lay. Picture: Steve Williams. Councillors at the Waterlees area of Wisbech. Left: Michael Bucknor, Virginia Bucknor, Paul Clapp and Alan Lay. Picture: Steve Williams.

Thursday, August 28, 2014
9:32 AM

Teenagers on the streets after 9pm in a Fenland market town could find themselves marched home by police, after officers granted themselves radical powers to tackle anti-social behaviour.

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Police say problems with abusive youngsters in part of Wisbech have become so bad that they are taking action through a dispersal order.

It means Cambridgeshire police officers will be able to break up groups in an area bordering The Spinney, Waterlees Road and Ollard Avenue. They can ban them from the area for 24 hours and if they return, they face arrest.

Police officers will also be able to take children under 16, spotted on the street between 9pm and 6am, back home to their parents or guardians.

Chief Insp Mike Hills said: “There have been numerous complaints and incidents of street-based anti-social behaviour caused by large groups of youths who congregate in this area. Many are drinking alcohol and being generally abusive towards members of the public and shop staff.

“Staff and shoppers have been alarmed and intimidated by these youths and have been subjected to abuse, noise and litter nuisance from some groups. There have also been a number of incidents of criminal damage and vandalism.”

The five-month order - the first of its kind in Fenland - was welcomed by Wisbech town councillor and Fenland District councillor Virginia Bucknor.

She said she had received many calls of complaint – four in one evening and all after 9.30pm.

“The one which got to me was a blind lady of 82,” she said.

In the three months from May 1, there were 33 incidents of anti-social behaviour, criminal damage or violence reported in the area.

Mrs Bucknor said: “Waterlees residents have been subjected to appalling anti-social behaviour by a small minority of people.

“This dispersal order enables the police to take positive action, particularly towards those who have been coming into the area from elsewhere to target vulnerable residents.”

The dispersal order came into effect on Friday and will last until January 18 next year.

Police sergeant Dave Bax claimed some of those responsible for the anti-social behaviour were from outside the area.

He said: “Members of the groups involved have chosen to target vulnerable people knowing that those persons are less able to defend themselves, they have thrown stones, abused and harassed decent people just trying to get on with their lives,

“We are currently investigating a number of harassment cases and reports of violence with the intention of bringing those responsible to justice.”

But Andrew Scott, on the Policing Wisbech Facebook page, said the police risked alienating the youngsters.

He said: “I agree there are problems there, but I know of a lot of kids that have been questioned by police [and] have not been quilty of anything.

“If you’re seen to be moving them on, then [the] older community are happy. but you are driving a wedge between yourselves and the 12 to 18 year-olds.”

In 2008, Norfolk police made use of a an anti-social behaviour dispersal order in the area of Norwich around Vauxhall Street and Jenny Lind Park.

It led to a string of arrests and police hailed the move for helping to cut crime by almost a third in the space of 12 months.

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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