Welcome for end of special powers in the city

June 28, 2010 10:24 AM
Tim Bick

Tim Bick

Cllr Tim Bick, Cambridge City Council's Executive Councillor with responsibility for Community Safety, has welcomed the expiry of the last dispersal order covering a part of the city.

"The special power of the Police to disperse groups of people from a whole part of the City is intended as a short term expedient to deal with levels of anti-social behaviour that there is no other way of addressing. City council support is necessary for any police request to adopt these powers for a designated area and the council has given that support where, on the basis of strong police evidence, it was proved to be necessary.

"But these powers raise obvious concerns for civil liberties and no-one should be comfortable with them for long."

So it is welcome news that for the first time for several years there will soon be no dispersal order in place anywhere in the city because in the police assessment, based on hard data, the need has gone away. In a report to the West-Central Area Committee last night the police indicated they would not be seeking a renewal of the last order in place, which covered the Kite area around the Grafton Centre because incidents had reduced and in their judgement could now be managed without the dispersal powers.

"I would like to congratulate the police for their patient, long term work in getting to this point and also recognise the support they have had from other agencies in doing so. The police assessment that these powers are no longer needed is good news. I personally believe that we have a healthier environment in the city if anti-social behaviour problems can be tackled within the boundaries of normal police powers for what people are actually doing that is harmful rather than just their presence in the wrong place.

"Previously dispersal orders have existed in the historic centre of the city and the Mill Road area, the latter expiring without replacement at the beginning of this year, after the police judged the reduction in incidents there rendered them unnecessary.

"A discussion in April about re-establishing dispersal powers in the historic centre concluded that they were not justified by the evidence and last night's West-Central Area Committee also received a report noting the effectiveness of a series of alternative measures taken there.

"Unfortunately this does not mean the problem of anti-social behaviour has gone away. We are talking about a busy urban area and the key to eradication within a tolerant liberal society still eludes us all. Police resources, vigilance and action within their existing powers will continue to be needed and will be the subject of ongoing consultation and collaboration with the city council and the public. If the trend reverses we may have to consider dispersal powers once again. But this is a small piece of progress which is worthy of note.

"I am hoping that the focus can turn much more to working on root causes and prevention and we will be reviewing that whole policy area at the next meeting of the Area Committee in August."

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