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Mapping DZs

October 06 2011
London?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s DZs London?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s DZs


Across the capital, local authorities have been employing different tactics to deal with ‘anti-social behaviour’ - a broad-brush term so all-encompassing it can cover anything from graffiti-doodling teens to all-out violence.

One of these methods is the use of Dispersal Zones: before our summer break The Pavement began a special investigation into their use. Since then, of course, London and indeed Britain has seen street riots on a scale not seen for decades as people from across society chose violent crime and hungry smash-and-grabs as a means to express their dissatisfaction with their lot in life. It therefore seems more pertinent than ever to examine the methods used by the authorities to keep us in check.

Since it was founded, The Pavement has been reporting and monitoring the growing use of Dispersal Zones (introduced in 2003) - geographical areas in boroughs where antisocial behaviour is considered a specifically challenging problem. Within these zones and at specified times the Metropolitan Police have additional powers to engage with members of the public, make arrests or move people on.

In a survey of all 33 boroughs in London, The Pavement has been able to paint the most accurate picture so far of the use of these zones - a picture that can be seen over the page. However we are keen to add to this information, and would be keen to hear any thoughts on the use of these zones in the borough you live in.

Of the 33 London Boroughs, 24 confirmed that they use or have used Dispersal Zones in the last three years to tackle anti-social behaviour. However the motivations and methods employed across these boroughs varied dramatically.

The majority of the Dispersal Zones were in place to deal with youth crime in specific areas, namely town centres, around retail districts or near to troubled estates. The zones in this case tended to give the police additional powers to enforce curfews or move on young people or under-16s off the streets.

Dispersal Zones are typically applied for a period of up to six months - after which councils and the police must apply to have them extended, particularly if they feel the zones are proving affective in solving a problem. We asked the London Boroughs to tell us where the zones had been used in 2009, 2010 and in 2011 and of those 24 boroughs using the zones, over half are reemploying or expanding Dispersal Zones in the same regions year after year.

In some boroughs the zones are used for very specific local issues. For example, both Wandsworth and Merton use zones around the time of the Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis tournament in order to prevent ticket touts hassling visitors to the event or hanging around near stations. In Hackney, a spate of attacks at a cash point near Manor House station led to a zone being used to move on people from this area - with good success.

Only three London boroughs do not use Dispersal Zones: Barnet, Lewisham and Sutton. Six failed to reply to our requests for information: they are Hammersmith & Fulham, Greenwich, Southwark, Newham, Bromley and Hillingdon.

The key question for The Pavement was ‘how many of these zones affect our readers?’ We have received anecdotal evidence of rough sleepers being moved on in parks in Westminster and near Waterloo Station for what the recipients of the orders felt were no good reason.

In truth, none of the Dispersal Zones we saw details for in London specifically targeted rough sleepers. However, the term ‘anti-social behaviour’ is so vague that it can be used to cover anything: it is a subjective term. One person having a can of lager in a park could be ‘anti-social’; six men grossly drunk and shouting at women could be ‘anti-social’; 10 men sitting on the roadside near a station could be ‘anti-social’. Dispersal Zones simply tackling ‘antisocial behaviour’ invite the police to use discretion as to which individuals they engage with.

The following boroughs did confirm that they use Dispersal Zones, but did not give us any details of the locations, dates nor motivations: Camden, Ealing, Haringey, Harrow, Kingston- upon-Thames, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

Key stats
• 24/33 London Boroughs use or have used Dispersal Zones.
• 3/33 London Boroughs do not use Dispersal Zones & 6/33 Boroughs did not reply.
• Over half of 24 zones used to tackle youth crime.
• No zones for which we saw information specifically targets rough sleepers.
• 7/24 boroughs using DZs failed to provide us with all information requested.