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New dispersal zone

November 13th 2009
The police have been given new powers to curb anti-social behaviour in central London following an increase in the number of community concerns about rough sleepers in the area. The City of London Corporation, in partnership with the City of London police and homelessness charity Broadway, introduced the new dispersal zones in two areas of the Square Mile on September 14th. They will remain in force, initially, until December 14th, when they could be extended, depending on how effective and useful they have proven following consultation. The measure, established as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, will give police and community support officers additional powers to move along people whom they believe may be linked to problems such as harassment, begging, drinking and urinating in the street. A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation told The Pavement: "The City dispersal zone, which is being implemented after extensive consultation, is designed to make a positive difference in the areas it covers. Only those engaging in persistent anti-social behaviour will be affected by this measure." The dispersal zones will be to the east and west of the City, covering Castle Baynard, Farringdon Within, Queenhithe, Vintry, Bishopsgate, Portsoken and Tower. When asked why specific wards were selected, rather than the whole City, the spokesperson explained: "The areas chosen are places where anti-social behaviour has been at its highest." He added that all members had been consulted, as were local charities, hostels, residents, businesses and also local authorities in adjacent boroughs. On average, there are 35 rough sleepers in the area, according to figures provided by the City of London Corporation. However, the measure has also sparked concerns that the dispersal zones are effectively giving police wide-ranging powers to stop most activities associated with rough sleepers or people who are surviving on the margins. In a letter to The Pavement, a reader describes the move as the latest "weapon" for the authorities in their "ongoing campaign of harassment against the City of London rough sleeper community". He said: "Any misuse of the powers of part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 will only make matters worse for [them]." Sally Leigh, London co-ordinator at Housing Justice, is urging an "amnesty" for those who are not offered acceptable alternatives or cannot leave the street for other reasons. "Restricting options for people without offering them a better alternative - or shifting and bullying vulnerable people with enforcement techniques without offering them a healthier sanctuary - is adding to human misery and driving desperate people to increasingly anti-social actions." She added: "This action, which restricts movement and curtails freedom, will succeed in driving people out of the City of London in the short-term, but it will leave our society with a bitter taste." This latest measure follows the implementation of a dispersal zone around Waterloo station in a bid to reduce the numbers of entrenched rough sleepers in the area, and a similar move in Clapham aimed at tackling a group of anti-social youths on an estate. The Pavement will be monitoring the running of the dispersal zones, and urges anyone within the Square Mile to get in touch with their views. What does it mean for me? * If an officer feels that two or more people gathering in a public place are causing or are likely to cause anti-social behaviour, they may order you to disperse * Examples of anti-social behaviour are spitting, shouting, using drugs, drinking alcohol, causing graffiti or damage, urination, defecation, street drinking and begging * If a person fails to comply with the directions of a constable, they commit an offence for which is punishable by three months' imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding £2,500.

November 2009



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© Copyright 2009-2014 The Pavement. Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656 Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760 ISSN (online) 1757-0484