Dispersal order extended in Hexham
Dated: 26 Apr 2007
A scheme tackle anti-social behaviour in a Northumberland town is being extended for a further six months.
The dispersal order for Hexham town centre, introduced last November by Northumbria Police and Tynedale Council, has proved effective in moving large groups of people congregating in one area, as well as being hugely popular with residents
The order has led to 190 people being "dispersed", several of them more than once, including one youth who was removed from the area 17 times. Five people have been arrested for breaching the order.
Figures for the first three months of the order show crime on Saturday nights fell by 85%. But groups are still continuing to gather and act anti-socially and since February there have been 23 arrests for drunkenness and disorder in addition to those being dispersed.
To combat this, the dispersal order will remain in place for another six months, from May 1. This means officers can disperse groups of two or more people if they believe their presence has resulted, or is likely to result, in any members of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed. In addition, if any under-16s involved in anti-social behaviour in the area between 9pm and 6am police can remove them to their homes.
The exact part of Hexham covered is the Market Place to the north, Hallgate to the east, St Mary's Chare to the west and Priestpopple, including Hexham bus station to the south and all the streets within.
Hexham Community Inspector Kevin Oates said: " Feedback from residents and visitors has been very positive with people telling us they feel safer in the town centre, especially late at night.
" It's unacceptable that a small number of persistently anti-social individuals are intent on causing disproportionate levels of harassment, alarm and distress to the vast majority of the law abiding population of Hexham.
" Parents must also accept responsibility for their children and not allow them to roam the streets, drink alcohol and intimidate members of the community and visitors to the town."
The long-term aim is to tackle persistent offenders with Tynedale Council through Acceptable Behaviour Agreements, tenancy enforcement and ASBOs if necessary, he added.
" These measures are very much a last resort. We will continue to work with parents, housing, schools and others to identify specific programmes for youngsters involved in anti-social behaviour and encourage them into a wide range of local diversionary measures.
" It must be added that a significant proportion of the people we have had to disperse have been adults, so it would be unfair to blame young people for all of these anti-social behaviour issues. Adults who cause problems in the town centre face being banned from all licensed premises through the Pubwatch scheme and potential further action.
"Hexham continues to be one of the safest towns in the country, but it is our job to to work together with Tynedale Council and other partners to ensure that we continue to build trust and confidence of residents and visitors to the town and further reduce crime and anti-social behaviour."
Richard Robson, chief executive at Tynedale Council, added: " We've supported the police in introducing this dispersal order for Hexham town centre.
" The Tynedale district is one of the safest areas in the north east, and indeed the UK, where crime and disorder on all fronts is very low. We wish to maintain and, where possible, improve on this position.
" For the majority of the time Hexham itself is a very safe and pleasant place to live and visit, but unfortunately a small minority of people are still causing a disproportionate amount of anti-social behaviour problems at particular times."
Anyone refusing to comply with the order could face arrest, a fine of up to £2,500 and three months imprisonment.